Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Snippets From the CIRM Egg Debate

Here are some excerpts from the transcript of the Feb. 28 meeting of the CIRM Standards Working Group concerning human egg availability.

CIRM President Alan Trounson:
"Accessing those number of eggs is no trivial matter, no matter what the opportunities are. In that circumstance the demand for the oocytes may be way beyond what we can possibly deliver in an outcome. And it may take us five years to do that. If we gave a three-year grant, that would be nonsense because the chance of deriving a cell line might be extremely low.

"That's why we've come because we have these applications sitting in our portfolio which we're questioning about how do we move forward on this, or do we sort of take them off the table and let the other ones proceed. I think it's important for you to understand that it's real-time now. We have to actually know exactly what is appropriate to do."
CIRM Chairman Robert Klein:
"From a legal point of view, I'm very concerned with the use of words here. I don't know anyone that's suggesting you make a $10,000 payment to somebody. If somebody has real cost, and they can document those costs, and they can get reimbursed for part of those costs. What's being addressed here is reimbursement for part of the cost, not a $20,000 payment to someone."
CIRM Oversight committee member Jeff Sheehy:
"If they did not think that they could get the eggs, they should not have submitted the applications. They have submitted applications, so they must believe that they can get the eggs."
Alta Charo, a member of the Standards Working Group and University of Wisconsin professor:
"Prop 71, which itself had this written in to some extent as a political matter, drove the National Academy guidelines which felt like they were already basically having to follow the California lead on the altruistic model here."
"I don't think it drives it forward. That's the problem."
"Now we're in a situation, I think, where it's particularly touchy to try and revisit the compromise, putting aside whether or not it's even legally possible given the language of Prop. 71."

Kevin Eggan
, Harvard stem cell researcher and member of the CIRM Standards Working Group:
"I have spent countless hours stomping around to different disease advocacy groups, tea circles, knitting circles, trying to find anyone and everyone who would donate their oocytes for our experiments, even out of the goodness of their heart because they had someone that they cared about who was affected by these diseases that we might in the very long term provide hope for.

"We spent more than $100,000 in advertising in the Boston Globe, in the Boston Herald, in the Boston area papers, in the suburbs of Boston. We have literally pursued every option. We've pursued trying to recruit donors from other parts of the United States to come to Boston to donate their oocytes for research. This will not work. In a country where women know that they can be compensated for doing the exact same thing, they simply will not, and in the face of the difficulties, I should add, it's not like they're not doing it solely because of the money, they're doing it because of the money and because it's a very difficult thing to do oocyte donation. And those two things collaborate together to create an environment in which women will not do this in a meaningful way which will allow the research to go forward.

"It was a very reasonable compromise to say we need to give up compensation because we can't afford to be assailed both from the right and the left on this position, but now we know that that compromise position is a failure. So what do we do about that? I think the fact of the matter is that it might as well be against the law if we can't do it. That's one sort of null hypothesis for years. So how to proceed in the face of that? I agree it's risky; but if we don't take the risk, then the outcome will be the same as if we take the risk ..."

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