More Details Released on Hwang Forcing Researcher to Donate Eggs

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 4, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

More Details Released on Hwang Forcing Researcher to Donate Eggs Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
January 4, 2006

Seoul, South Korea ( — South Korean television station MBC ran its report Tuesday night on a junior research that disgraced embryonic stem cell research scientist Hwang Woo-suk may have forced to donate her eggs for his team’s now-disproven studies.

A member of Hwang’s team told MBC that Hwang pressured team members to "subject themselves to painful procedures to extract eggs and contribute to Hwang’s research out of fear they would otherwise be excluded from academic recognition."

The scientist, whose voice was disguised to protect her identity, told of one colleague who "told Professor Hwang she wouldn’t go through with the procedure" to which Hwang replied: "Why not?"

"She was worried, and it was out of worry that she decided to donate her eggs," the colleague explained.

The source told MBC that the female researcher then "went back to Hwang’s laboratory and conducted the cloning experiment on the eggs that she herself had contributed that morning."

The MBC television station also received an email from the researcher forced to donate her eggs, though to be junior scientist Park Eul-soon. She said she regretted succumbing to Hwang’s demands.

"I hope I can forgive myself for not being able to stand up to the professor," she wrote.

The MBC report contends Hwang forced Park to donate her eggs for embryonic stem cell research after she mistakenly spilled ova used for experiments in 2003.

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.

Hwang has not responded to the recent allegations and the Seoul National University panel which has concluded that much of Hwang’s team’s embryonic stem cell research was fake has declined to comment on them until it releases its final report next week, according to Reuters.

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.

Meanwhile, representatives of 32 civic groups in South Korea held a press conference demanding to know more about how Hwang’s team collected its eggs and whether the reports of pressuring researchers to donate them is true.

"Until now, the focus was on the existence of the technology, but for the national interest, the state must show that women’s bodies must not be used for tools, an inhumane and unethical attitude," they said, according to a JoongAng Daily report.