South Korean Human Cloning Scientist Denies Ethics Violations

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 15, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korean Human Cloning Scientist Denies Ethics Violations Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 15, 2005

Seoul, South Korea ( — Human cloning scientist Hwang Woo-Suk is denying charges that his research team violated ethical considerations when a member of it donated her eggs for the team’s embryonic stem cell research. The violations led University of Pittsburgh scientist Gerald Schatten to quit his partnership with Hwang.

Hwang says he has complied with the ethical protocols set up by the South Korean government, but he is considered a hero in the nation and the government loosely regulates his work. It also has donated millions to support it.

"We are the only research team (in South Korea) with the Ministry of Health license on human cell nuclear transfer under this guideline," Hwang told a media conference organized by CNN.

"I am grateful for the many donors who have donated eggs for my research," Hwang told reporters Monday. "We have been conducting all the research projects strictly within the government-set ethics guidelines."

"I will explain everything at an appropriate time. We don’t know anything else but Professor Schatten has expressed his intention to leave us," Hwang added.

Ahn Curie, Hwang’s spokeswoman, said eventually the outcry over the ethical issues would eventually be put to rest and she accused the two scientific journals that exposed the problems, Science and Nature, of "backbiting."

Pro-life groups say there’s a huge cause for concern.

"If this junior scientist was the actual donor, was she coerced? Or was she given improper incentives," asked Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

"If it’s unethical to offer a junior scientist career advancement or cash inducements, why is it ethical to offer an entire scientific community billions of dollars in research grants and dangle Nobel prizes for the first ones who successfully clone human beings," he added.

Hang received international attention for claims that he successfully cloned a human embryo last year. This year, he claimed to have created the first genetic match of an embryonic stem cells.

Schatten said that Hwang had repeatedly denied the accusations, in an interview with the Washington Post.

"I now have information that leads me to believe he had misled me," Schatten was quoted as saying. "My trust has been shaken. I am sick at heart. I am not going to be able to collaborate with Woo Suk."

Hwang claimed to have used 242 eggs obtained from 16 women for the study and he denies one of the women was a junior researcher.

Hwang’s team also created the first cloned dog, called Snuppy.