British doctors have announced that they are now beginning to “harvest” human eggs. Donated eggs will be used to produce test-tube babies for women who are afraid to pass on such inherited genetic diseases as muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, etc.

In effect, the process is a reverse artificial insemination in that the husband’s sperm is joined with a donor egg. AI until now has used donated sperm joined with the wife’s egg.

Healthy women will donate their eggs when they are undergoing routine abdominal surgery – such as having their tubes tied. Such surgery will be carefully timed to coincide with the woman’s ovulation, so the potential donor will have to wait for surgery until she is at her fertile period.

Dr. Tom Lind, consultant obstetrician at the Princess Mary Maternity Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne, announced the procedure. In an interview on CBC Radio’s As It Happens, he more than once referred to the procedure as a “harvesting” operation.

Lind says that he hopes to begin the new program within three to four months, and to do 25 procedures a year with donated eggs.