“Keep in mind that on day one of the iPS cell era in the stem cell field we had a huge number of misconceptions because we simply had so much to learn. Same is true here.”
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Oregon-style Stem Cell Cloning Research Illegal in California: No Pay for Eggs in Golden State
The good news out of Oregon is that some diligent scientists in the Beaver State have accomplished a major advance in stem cell research --- the cloning of human stem cells.
That bad news is that their research would have been illegal in California, and probably will be banned for decades, if not longer – thanks to Proposition 71 of 2004.
The proposition was the ballot initiative that created the $3 billion California stem cell agency, which is hailed internationally as being one of the world leaders in financing stem cell science. Unfortunately, the 10,000-word initiative also contains language that was aimed at winning voter approval of the measure -- not promoting good science.
The team writing the initiative, led by Robert Klein, the former and first chairman of the stem cell agency, put in a provision that made it illegal to pay women for their eggs. The Oregon researchers paid women $3,000 to $7,000 each for their eggs, reflecting the current market rate based on prices paid in connection with IVF. In some cases for IVF, the compensation is dramatically higher. (See here and here.) Stem cell researchers in recent years in the United States have found that they cannot secure an adequate number of donors without matching IVF donor compensation.
While compensation for eggs is a matter of some controversy, strong cases have been made that women should make their own decisions about selling their eggs – not the what some call the nanny state. Of course, that should occur under well-regulated situations. But Proposition 71 backers wanted to remove any possible campaign objections by opponents of stem cell research, and so they inserted the ban along with management minutia and other dubious material.
Can't that be changed, one might ask? Not without a herculean effort. That means another ballot measure or a super, super majority vote in the California legislature plus the signature of the governor. Imagine a measure on the ballot to allow women to sell their eggs. The uproar would be heard internationally. In 2004, when Proposition 71 was approved, it would have been better to leave the compensation issue unaddressed. Then it could have been dealt with through regulation or normal legislation, both of which are far more flexible than ballot measures that alter the state Constitution and state law.
Our quick and limited survey of the news coverage indicated that many of the mainstream media stories omitted the price of the eggs, which may suggest that the issue of compensation is becoming moot.
In related news about the Oregon accomplishment, UC Davis stem cell researcher Paul Knoepfler has posted a good look at the some of the misinformation that is surfacing on the Internet about the research, including its implications.
Jessica Cussins over at the Berkeley-based Biopolitical Times also has a solid roundup of the coverage of the Oregon research and the analysis of its significance.