Monday, March 13, 2006

The New, Obscure Run at California Stem Cell Research Guidelines

Belatedly and quietly, another California state agency is looking into ethical standards for embryonic stem cell research. And at its first meeting two members suggested that it might be appropriate to pay women for donating eggs.

The agency in question is the Department of Health Services. Under 2003 legislation by California state Sen. Deborah Ortiz, chair of the Senate Committee, the department was required to develop guidelines for embryonic stem cell research by Jan. 1, 2005, with the use of an advisory committee.

That 13-member committee was not appointed until six months after that deadline. It did not hold its first meeting until Feb. 24 of this year with the only public notice coming on an obscure website within the Department of Health Services.

Lea Brooks, chief of the public information section of DHS, said the department has no plans to notify the public about committee meetings other than by postings on the website, even if individuals request notification. The committee is expected to have two more meetings before concluding its work this fall.

The committee's guidelines affect all embryonic stem cell research in California, except for that financed by the California stem cell agency, which already has approved its own rules. CIRM is constitutionally independent of DHS and and is not required to adhere to the DHS guidelines.

Members of the advisory committee, however, seem to be in agreement on creating guidelines that are consistent with CIRM regulations, based on a somewhat garbled transcript of the Feb. 24 meeting, which was not covered by the media.

However, the ticklish issue of payments for eggs, which CIRM has shied away from, was raised by committee member Elliott Dorff, a professor of philosophy, who, according to the transcript, said:,

"One issue is just simply how realistic it is to expect women to donate their eggs free of charge. That the UCLA Bruins -- I can’t say the law school at UCLA -- every single time, there are ads for women to donate their eggs for purposes of fertilizing other couples. And while the standard used to be $5,000 plus expenses, I’ve seen ads as high as $80,000 for a particular kind of egg. And so one issue that - I mean I understand why the guidelines don’t want to have any exchange over this, but if the case, I’m sort of wondering whether is it at all realistic."

Committee member Gregory Stock also expressed concerned about a ban on remuneration.

The delay in implementation of the guideline law is a matter of some dispute. Questions have also been raised about reported changes in the committee's composition.

Brooks said the law, as originally passed, did not provide funding. However, other sources indicated that the governor attempted to "defund" it in his first budget. Brooks said it took from June 7, 2005, the date of the committee's appointment, until recently to get all members of the committee to agree to serve and to agree on a meeting date.

Another source said one list of committee members was circulated but that it was changed without notifying persons who were on the original list. The implication was that the committee was altered to be less restrictive on research. Brooks said there was only one list.

It is not clear how much privately funded embryonic stem cell research is underway in California. However, Stanford and UC San Francisco both have private grants to build facilities to do privately funded research. The state also has a number of privately funded stem cell companies.

The bulk of the first advisory committee meeting was largely occupied with background briefings and organizational issues, based on the transcript.

The next public meeting may come in May or June with the final session later this year, according to Henry Greely, chairman of the panel. During the interim, subcommittees will work privately to prepare material for the full committee meetings.

Here is the official list of the committee members: Elizabeth Helen Blackburn, Ph.D, Professor, Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of California, San Francisco; Samuel H. Cheshier, M.D., Ph.D. Neurosurgical Resident, Department of Neurosurgery, Stanford University School of Medicine; Gregory Stock, Ph.D., M.B.A., Director, Program on Medicine, Technology and Society, University of California, Los Angeles; Irving Weissman, M.D.Director and Professor, Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine, Division of Neurosurgery, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine; Otoniel Martinez-Masa, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles; Fred Gage, Ph.D. Laboratory of Genetics, The Stalk Institute for Biological Studies; Bertram H. Lubin, M.D. President, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute and Director of Cord Blood Program; Bernard Lo, M.D. Director of Program in Medical Ethics, Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco; David Magnus, Ph.D. Director, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics and Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University; Henry Greely, J.D. Professor of Law, Stanford Law School; Radhika Rao, J.D. Professor of Law, University of California, Hastings College of Law, San Francisco; Elliot Dorff, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, University of Judaism, Los Angeles; Margaret R. McLean, Ph.D. Assistant Director, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics and Director, Biotechnology and Heath Care Ethics, Santa Clara University.

More information on the committee can be found at this website. Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment