California Lawmaker: Stem Cell Research Scandal Prompts Oversight Need

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 2, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Lawmaker: Stem Cell Research Scandal Prompts Oversight Need Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 2, 2006

Sacramento, CA ( — A California lawmaker says state oversight on the committee Proposition 71 charged with distributing billions in grants for human cloning and embryonic stem cell research is crucial because of the scandal over faked research in South Korea.

Sen. Deborah Ortiz, a Democrat, says she plans to reintroduce her constitutional amendment to require the committee to submit to stricter conflict of interest and open meeting rules.

Ortiz will also introduce a new measure to offer better protection to women who donate their eggs for research. That decision comes amid new allegations that Hwang Woo-suk pressured a junior colleague to undergo a medical procedure to collect her eggs for research after she accidentally destroyed some.

”The South Korean scandal makes it more difficult for opponents to allege this is a plot by the right wing,” Ortiz told the Sacramento Bee newspaper. ”It shows the best and the brightest in the scientific community couldn’t catch these instances of fraud and overstated research.”

Ortiz, who backs embryonic stem cell research, was successful in getting the legislature to approve SB 18, which was intended to protect women who donate their eggs.

However, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill because it also contained a section requiring an audit of the Prop. 71 committee. Schwarzenegger said the requirement violated provisions in the proposition that voters approved mandating that no changes be made to the program in the first three years.

Still, Schwarzenegger said he "strongly agreed" with the egg donation provisions and Ortiz said her new measure would only pertain to protecting women and wouldn’t contain the audit provision.

Protections would include asking doctors to inform women about the risks associated with the egg extraction procedure and obtaining women’s informed consent.

Ortiz told the Bee that her measure would also prohibit paying women any money beyond reimbursements for the expenses they incur. Doctors must also disclose any role they play in stem cell research using the donated eggs.

Zach Hall, president of the stem cell committee, said it plans to hold a conference in the spring to examine the risks associated with egg donations.

The committee has yet to fund any stem cell research programs because it is the subject of two lawsuits which say the agency has violated state open meetings and conflict of interest requirements. The lawsuits also say Proposition 71 was illegal because it failed to follow state law and allow for state government oversight since it uses public funds.