Saturday, June 03, 2006

California Stem Cell Research Regulation: CIRM is Not the Only Player

So what is a woman to do? Donate her eggs to Brand X research and lose her wages or donate her eggs to CIRM research and recoup her wages?

That is one of the subjects likely to be addressed, at least in one form or another, by the other California stem cell committee. It will meet next Thursday to consider ethical standards for embryonic stem cell research that is not financed by CIRM.

This group is an advisory panel to the state Department of Health Services and has held only one meeting so far. During its initial session Feb. 24 (See "research"), it seemed in agreement on creating guidelines consistent with CIRM regulations.

The voter-approved measure that created CIRM made it constitutionally independent of the state Department of Health Services and the advisory committee.

The agenda for the committee, chaired by Henry Greely, a law professor at Stanford, is a tad shy of details. But one item to be discussed is SB1260 by Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento. Among other things, that measure would extend the life of the advisory panel, but it is basically aimed at protecting women who provide eggs for stem cell research.

Ortiz' bill would additionally ban reimbursement of lost wages for egg donors, which CIRM permits. (See "wages of eggs."). That is where the double standard for egg donations comes in. No reimbursement for run-of-the-mill egg donors while donors to CIRM research can recover any lost salaries. One might imagine there will be few donors of eggs for research outside of CIRM.

SB1260 would also bar women from selling their eggs for the purposes of medical research, but does not speak to the question of women selling their eggs for other purposes. The bill has passed the Senate and seems headed for legislative approval. The governor has already indicated that he favors protecting women egg donors just as long as it doesn't interfere with CIRM.

The advisory committee might also want to examine the latest critique of the CIRM research regulations by the Center for Genetics and Society. The group sent a detailed later to CIRM on its rules, which are going through the formal adoption process, recommending a number of changes, including one dealing with a loophole involving payment for eggs.

One section of CIRM's rules, accord to the center, creates a "fiction and an illusory distinction between eggs provided for fertility and eggs provided for research."

The center said,
"Common practice in fertility treatment is to pay women per cycle, not per egg, and in fact, paying women per egg would create perverse incentives as happened in South Korea for women to be given higher doses of hormones than necessary. Suppose a woman provides one cycle of eggs from which 10 eggs are retrieved. This new regulation says that if a woman undergoes one cycle and provides 10 eggs, the clinic can pay her for 8 and then pretend that she gave 2 for free! This is nothing but a sham to create compensation for eggs for research, which is against the law."
The center proposed language that reads:
"A woman providing oocytes for donation for another person’s reproductive efforts may not donate any of these eggs to research unless she has received no valuable consideration for her donation of oocytes for either research or reproduction."
The group also had more comments on CIRM's rules for informed consent arrangements, assurances of medical care for egg donors and activities not eligible for CIRM funding. Sphere: Related Content

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