by Steven Ertelt
January 2, 2006
Seoul, South Korea (LifeNews.com) — Embattled embryonic stem cell research scientist Hwang Woo-suk may have forced one of his female colleagues to donate her eggs for his team’s experiments. Hwang had previously come under fire for covering up voluntary donations by two other members of his team.
The South Korean MBC television network, which uncovered the initial scandal surrounding Hwang’s research, planned a Monday broadcast to report on the latest allegations.
The report contends Hwang forced junior researcher Park Eul-soon to donate eggs for embryonic stem cell research after she mistakenly spilled ova used for experiments in 2003.
"I regret that I did not stand up to Dr. Hwang," she told MBC in an email to the station’s producers.
MBC reported that Park, who is in her mid 20s, called herself "tough" for going through the procedure to clone her eggs for research. The medical procedure involves injections to stimulate ovulation and a general anesthesia.
Fr Lee Dong-ik Remigio, professor at the Catholic University of Seoul and member of the National Ethics Committee, confirmed that Hwang’s research team fostered an atmosphere of coerced egg donations among other women as well.
In an interview with the Catholic PBS radio, he said “there are suspicions that he made some kind of agreement with his researchers before the paper came out in 2004."
"It shows there may have been an atmosphere of coercion, forcing them to donate their ova," Lee said, citing another of Hwang’s junior researchers.
"So I raised the issue at a meeting of the committee on Friday, and the committee will try to ascertain the truth," he explained.
Hwang admitted covering up the donations of human eggs by two other researchers in 2004 but he has maintained that their donations were voluntary. He said he did not admit eggs were used from members of his research team because he wanted to protect their privacy.
Park left Hwang’s lab last year and went to the United States where she worked with Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh. Schatten dissolved his partnership with Hwang in late November after the voluntary egg donations came to light.