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    Emergency Hysterectomy for Teenage Victim of Illegal Egg Harvest

    Fertility problems and lack of donors continue to prop up black market.

    A 17-year-old girl sold more than 20 of her eggs to black-market middlemen, and the illegal surgery nearly cost her her life.

    On Wednesday, the two middlemen, surnamed Deng and Lai, were sentenced to 12 and 10 months in prison, respectively, and fined a total of 8,000 yuan ($1,160), reported Party newspaper Guangzhou Daily.

    In June 2016, the 17-year-old girl, whom the report identifies by a pseudonym, Ah Lin, heard from a friend that selling her eggs could potentially be lucrative. That same friend later introduced her to Lai, and the two agreed on a price of 15,000 yuan for Ah Lin to undergo the procedure.

    Lai and his partner, Deng, assured Ah Lin that the surgery was safe, and after Ah Lin passed a physical exam in September she was put on intravenous drips for more than 10 days. According to a police investigation, the solution flowing into her body was meant to stimulate ovulation, but it also caused serious harm.

    On Oct. 6, Ah Lin was taken to a house in an unknown location to undergo the surgery. There were five other girls at the house with her. On the second day, Ah Lin had difficulty breathing and vomited while connected to the IV drip. She went to the emergency room, where doctors discovered the surgery had damaged her ovaries to such an extent that her uterus had to be removed in order to save her life.

    After the operation, police arrested the two middlemen, who were accused of illegally practicing medicine. On Wednesday, the Baiyun District People’s Court in Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province, announced the verdict of the first hearing, which included the fines and prison sentences. The judge presiding over the case told Guangzhou Daily that many of the small, street-corner fliers soliciting “egg donations” are actually soliciting “egg buying.”

    In a separate but related incident last month in Shanghai, a 23-year-old college student sold more than 20 eggs for a total of 25,000 yuan — a case that raised public awareness of the black market for sex cells. “There should be a stronger crackdown on these black-market middlemen,” gynecologist Liu Nan of Nanfang Hospital in Guangzhou told Southern Metropolis Daily.

    According a 2012 report by state news agency Xinhua, more than 40 million Chinese, or 12.5 percent of the country’s childbearing population, have fertility problems. However, surrogacy and the private sale of sperm, eggs, and embryos are forbidden in China, and because of strict criteria for donors and a shortage of egg banks, a black market has emerged and even flourished, offering all kinds of fertility-related services.

    Tomato Reproductive Surrogacy Center, based in Shenzhen, also in Guangdong province, has been described as an “underground” organization providing surrogacy services and eggs. When Sixth Tone approached the company posing as a potential eggs donor, a male employee said that the center encourages young women — preferably good-looking, educated ones — to come into their office for an interview. “Our clients want good genes for their children,” he said. Though the center bills egg donation as an altruistic gesture for families in need, the employee offered 30,000 yuan in exchange for eggs.

    The employee’s Moments timeline on messaging app WeChat is littered with solicitations for young and beautiful girls. The accompanying photos all include thick bundles of cash.

    Editor: David Paulk.

    (Header image: A woman undergoes an egg retrieval operation at a hospital in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, March 2011. Chen Tuanjie/IC)