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NY to pay for eggs for research

New York has become the first and only state to opt to pay women for eggs donated for human embryonic stem cell research. The linkurl:Empire State Stem Cell Board;http://stemcell.ny.gov/ (ESSCB), which oversees New York's $600 million stem cell research program that was launched last year, came to the decision last week (June 11) following "extensive deliberation" from its ethics committee. Human oocyteImage: Wikimedia"The Board agreed that it is ethical and appropriate for women donating oocyt

By | June 17, 2009

New York has become the first and only state to opt to pay women for eggs donated for human embryonic stem cell research. The linkurl:Empire State Stem Cell Board;http://stemcell.ny.gov/ (ESSCB), which oversees New York's $600 million stem cell research program that was launched last year, came to the decision last week (June 11) following "extensive deliberation" from its ethics committee.
Human oocyte
Image: Wikimedia
"The Board agreed that it is ethical and appropriate for women donating oocytes for research purposes to be compensated in the same manner as women who donate oocytes for reproductive purposes and for such payments to be reimbursable as an allowable expense" under state taxpayer-backed grants, the ESSCB wrote in a linkurl:statement.;http://stemcell.ny.gov/docs/ESSCB_Statement_on_Compensation_of_Oocyte_Donors.pdf The board noted that researchers in other states that ban financial reimbursement have mostly failed to recruit women to donate eggs for free. For example, Harvard University's linkurl:Kevin Eggan;http://www.mcb.harvard.edu/Eggan/index.asp spent two years and $100,000 on local advertising and secured only a single egg donor. Last year, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine also linkurl:mulled over the idea;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54506/ of paying for eggs, but has yet to make any definitive decisions. In 2005, the National Academies recommended against compensating egg donors in its__ linkurl:Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research;http://dels.nas.edu/bls/stemcells/guidelines.shtml __-- a suggestion that was adopted by most state-run stem cell agencies. The New York measure, mentioned today on Nature's blog,__ linkurl:The Great Beyond,;http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2009/06/new_york_stem_cell_committee_a_1.html __is being met with mixed reactions. "I don't think it's a good idea," linkurl:Arthur Caplan,;http://www.bioethics.upenn.edu/People/?last=Caplan&first=Arthur a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told __The Scientist__. It's "more ethically acceptable" to pay women to harvest eggs for in vitro fertilization programs because donor eggs have proven successful in assisted fertility treatments. With stem cell research, "the risk benefit ratio starts to slide," Caplan said. "It's a lot iffier a proposition and I think that makes a difference. In research you don't know what you're going to get, and the odds are that cloning for research is never going to work." The ESSCB feels otherwise. "Donating oocytes to stem cell research arguably confers a greater benefit to society than does oocyte donation for private reproductive use," the board said in its linkurl:statement.;http://stemcell.ny.gov/docs/ESSCB_Statement_on_Compensation_of_Oocyte_Donors.pdf linkurl:Ronald M. Green,;http://bit.ly/8zCaw a bioethicist at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, said he's "glad to see" the ESSCB's decision. Green, who serves pro bono on the ethics advisory board of linkurl:Advanced Cell Technology,;http://www.advancedcell.com/ a Massachusetts-based biotech company, said that it's ethical and necessary to pay women to donate eggs for stem cell research if researchers want to investigate the potential of therapeutic cloning. "It's discriminatory and sexist not to pay for eggs," Green said, noting that men can be paid for sperm. "It is paternalistic and protective to say that [women] can't make this decision." But many critics, including Father linkurl:Thomas Berg,;http://www.westchesterinstitute.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=177&Itemid=33 director of the Catholic think tank Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person, argue that compensation will lead to the exploitation of poor and disenfranchised women. Paying women as much as $10,000 -- the upper limit under the ESSCB's directives -- will "create an undue inducement" that will put vulnerable women at risk, he said. "It's precedent setting." Green said this criticism is unfounded. "There needs to be a good register of who has donated and a limit to the number of times" a women can be paid for eggs, he said, but institutional oversight committees and "proportional and modest" payments will help guard against any potential exploitation of donors. Berg also takes issue with "the fact that we have not had a sufficiently long period of public comment on an issue that involves use of taxpayer money." linkurl:Jennifer Lahl,;http://www.cbc-network.org/about.php national director of the California-based Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, objects to paying women to undergo ovarian stimulation to obtain eggs for any purpose, whether it's for research or reproduction. "I certainly take the position that this is a harmful, dangerous procedure with risks, and why in the world would we take healthy, young girls who aren't patients and pump them full of hormones and subject them to a medical procedure that requires minor surgery?" she said. The ESSCB said it has "intensively" deliberated on the issue "over the past year" and is confident in the decision it has reached.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:CIRM to pay for eggs?;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54506/
[27th March 2008]*linkurl:Cracking cloning;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/53224/
[June 2007]*linkurl:Fertilized eggs yield stem cells;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53272//
[6th June 2007]
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Comments

Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

June 18, 2009

I can hardly see how compensating an adult woman for her eggs, whether she is poor or not, will lead to her exploitation. On the contrary, a well-regulated program that controls the number of times a donor can give, assures proper compensation, and provides medical monitoring throughout the process seems much more along the lines of other responsibly run medical trials that people submit themselves to for compensation.\n\nAnd while I appreciate Jennifer Lahl's point of view, the fact is that ovarian stimulation is not illegal, is completed in a safe fashion and is a legitimate source of money for women means it is not going to stop happening. So, if a woman is going to give up her eggs legally, she should be compensated for them, no matter to what end those eggs come.
Avatar of: PAUL STEIN

PAUL STEIN

Posts: 61

June 18, 2009

I truly appreciate the sentence, "The ESSCB said it has 'intensively' deliberated on the issue 'over the past year' and is confident in the decision it has reached." Governmental boards as well as institutional ones, such as IACUC's and IRB's, are invariably made up of intelligent, well-meaning individuals who take their responsibilities extremely seriously.\n\nThe ESSBC came to a very thoughtful decision. Hence, everyone else, please go away - which means that, at best, these bioethicists' opinions are unnecessary, or, at worst, to simply justify their existence, these individuals are looking for attention to force their personal agendas. \n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

June 18, 2009

Mr Stein,\n\nI find your condescending comment interesting as you neglect to acknowledge that by commenting these folks are indeed minding their own business if the research or any methods for obtaining research materials are conducted using taxpayer dollars. It is interesting that you give so much credence to folks that sit on committees (usually by appointment or as part of job duties, and certainly not thru a procedure that would ascertain if they might also be likely to allow their personal bias, i.e.,for using embryonic stem cells, to effect their decision), but you are very willing to malign those who have been willingly quoted as having an agenda-it seems that one could hide behind the auspices of a committee or organization with greater facility and thereby not be held accountable for their decisions (safety and annonimity in numbers). \n\nAlso shouldn't any procedure that has garnered such varying views from confirmed ethicists perhaps be revisited? At the very least the valid arguments presented in the article should be addressed (as there was no fanatical fervor detected in the article as there was in your comment).\n\nFinally, to bring up an old issue, there is no data to date demonstrating the promise of these cells (just hopes of scientists looking for the newest discovery hanging their hopes on the tired backs of the sick and hopeful), while there is current research and data forwarding the use of human skin cells transformed into embryonic stem cells without the use of toxic viruses (like CMV). In that same light, isn't using embryonic stem cells for research as an industry almost antiquated? As these newer technologies that actually demonstrate success of some kind are emerging, isn't this discussion becoming a bit taboo? A hold out used in order to be called progressive and to label those who feel differently regarding the value of these cells as fanatical? \n\nOops, I guess you would also prefer if anyone that doesn't share your shut up or get out sentiment to mind their own? Luckily, for both sides of the argument we live in the USA, in 2009, on planet Earth-perhaps you should check us out in reality? Your diatribe isn't doing anything for either side of the argument-perhaps it is you who should "mind your own"?

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