INTERVIEW: “My Egg Donor Agency’s Owner Got Prison Time for Fraud”
The fertility industry is largely unregulated in the United States. Anyone -- with or without credentials -- can open an egg donor agency. An egg donation agency facilitates the exchange between egg donors and the recipients of these eggs. This is an interview with Laura, a high-demand, 10-time egg donor who exclusively worked for Allison Layton, the owner of Miracles Egg Donation Inc.
In September 2015, Allison Layton was sentenced to 18 months in a federal prison for defrauding her clients, surrogates, and egg donors.
WE ARE EGG DONORS: Hi Laura. Tell us about yourself, where you’re from, and how you entered the world of egg donation.
LAURA: I am originally from California; I live in St. Petersburg, Florida, where I’m in my final year of nursing school. I learned about IVF in a newspaper article. I was 21 then, and I felt drawn to the idea of helping families become complete. I have two sisters, one a twin. We grew up rough, so when I realized I could help others — good, caring, devoted people — I felt a calling to egg donation. I did almost all of my cycles based out of California. I travelled to a few other states and had a family from Belgium and two from Australia use me state side for their cycles. All of my cycles have been positive outcomes, all were twins, and with two cycles being triplets. I am not sure how many second cycles were done with my eggs. From my count…I am pretty sure I have about 18 genetic children out there.
WE ARE EGG DONORS: How do you feel about your donations? Why you do you feel egg donation is important and what in particular is personally meaningful to you?
LAURA: I’ve donated 10 times, and I’m proud of all of them. They’ve varied, some anonymous, some families I’m in touch with. Knowing that I’ve helped others fulfill their deepest desire, that I’ve been included in helping people with the most important part of their life, has given me so much satisfaction. I know that a lot of donors have experienced abusive doctors, bad medicine regimens, etc., but I’ve been lucky, and I’m thankful.
WE ARE EGG DONORS: How did you find Miracles? What was it like?
LAURA: Miracles looked like a mom-and-pop type business. I’d done some Googling and wanted to work with a smaller local agency. I applied, was accepted, and was matched in just a couple months. The women at Miracles were friendly and genuine.
WE ARE EGG DONORS: What was the owner like? Did you notice any red flags?
LAURA: I didn’t work with Allison directly, the owner, until my third donation. The relationship was always positive. She matched me quickly, and kept me quite busy. Near the end of my run, maybe around donation 6, I started to get the feeling that the reason why I’d had a purely positive experiences with Allison and Miracles was because I’d been quite beneficial financially. I was matched very quickly after each cycle, and was popular, which I think kept my experience free of any kind of scandal.
WE ARE EGG DONORS: What was your reaction to the news? How are you feeling about it?
LAURA: I was shocked, honestly. I’d been with Allison for my entire decade-long run, and she never struck me as someone capable of her crimes. She was a donor herself, and she understood. She helped families become whole, and then created a company to help more people. I never imagined she’d turn on her clients… manipulate and deceive people like she did. I still have a hard time believing it. We were close. I went to her wedding. I suppose I was curious about her lifestyle, and how she managed it, but all this fraud just never occurred to me as a possibility. I worried about the cycles I’d done, about the families. I wondered if any of mine had been hurt. Turns out a family I helped with a set of triplets were the worst hit. While they’re thankful for what Miracles and I provided, they’ve also been put through hell. It’s a confusing set of feelings.
WE ARE EGG DONORS: Please share some insights for egg donors to consider when choosing an agency.
LAURA: I’m not sure that I’m qualified to tell people what to look for in an agency. All this was going on and I had no idea. The only clue was how frequently I was matched, once four times in a year. Typically that’s an indication of someone milking you, but I heard that my qualifications and characteristics made me in high demand, and I felt good knowing how many people I was helping. I was betting myself, paying my own way through college as well. I suppose I’d say do your research. Use trusted agencies with a long history of success. Read, join groups, research the problems in egg donation and how to best protect yourself. Belong to groups like WAED where we can be open about our experiences with doctors and clinics and help other donors have a better experience.
WE ARE EGG DONORS: Do you feel that the fertility industry can do better to prevent this from happening to Intended Parents (IPs), egg donors and surrogates?
LAURA: There isn’t enough regulation in the fertility industry. Frequencies of donation, medicine regimens, egg collection, etc., need enforcement. There are loose laws, recommendations really, that varies across the US, and allows both donors and agencies to game the system. I was able to. I donated more than recommended by the ASRM. My IPs got pregnant, and I made a little bit of money, but little violations like mine up to large frauds like Allison’s shouldn’t be so easy. There’s a lot of vulnerability in fertility. It’s a for-profit multi-million dollar industry, and the intended parents are willing to give everything they have for a chance at a family. It’s apparently too easy to paint yourself as altruistic while raking in the cash. A better system of regulations would go further in protecting the IPs and donors.