Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Should Women Be Allowed to Sell Their Eggs?

Some folks who take a jaundiced view of embryonic stem cell research are calling the Korea-egg affair the "first international scandal of the biotech century" and say California better watch its Ps and Qs.

Nigel M. de S. Cameron and M.L. Tina Stevens laid out their concerns in an opinion piece this morning in the San Francisco Chronicle. Cameron is chair of the Center for Bioethics and Culture in Oakland. Stevens teaches history at San Francisco State University.

They wrote:

"California needs to do some soul-searching. Some of us said all along that the only way cloning researchers would ever get anything near the number of eggs they needed would be through unethical channels. We thought they would go to poor women in poor countries, which is one reason so much of the developing world supported the U.N. global cloning ban. California should ban payments for egg donation for embryonic stem cell/embryonic cloning research. Stiff penalties for violations should be enforced. Moreover, it should proceed only after serious, independent, medical study aimed at addressing unanswered concerns over the long-term effects of hormones and egg extraction takes place. Only then can the state offer a meaningful and fully 'informed consent.'"

A couple of thoughts: CIRM currently bars compensation for egg donations. Cameron and Stevens apparently want to take this a step further and bar payments to cover expenses. Their piece also repeatedly uses the expression "human cloning" without noting that is forbidden by Prop. 71, leaving the reader to infer wrongly that the California stem cell agency is engaged in such activities.

The Korean egg business does lead to the question of whether women should be allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies including production of eggs. An international flat prohibition against payments for eggs also is certain to be violated, given the stakes involved in stem cell research. If payments are legal and regulated, presumably they can be policed appropriately with better oversight of how donors are treated.

That said, we are still withholding judgment on the question of cash for eggs. Let us know what you think about the matter. Should California allow women to be paid for providing their eggs for stem cell research? You can post your comments by clicking on the word "comments" at the end of this item. It allows you to post anonymously if that is your wish. Sphere: Related Content

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