South Korea Hospital Loses Suit in Embryonic Stem Cell Research Fraud Case

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 30, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korea Hospital Loses Suit in Embryonic Stem Cell Research Fraud Case Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 30, 2006

Seoul, South Korea ( — A South Korean hospital that contributed to the embryonic stem cell research fraud scandal in the Asian nation lost a court case in which a woman who donated her eggs for the research was not told about the risks involved. The Seoul Central District Court ordered Mizmedi Hospital to pay over $63 million to a woman who donated her eggs.

The court said the hospital’s fertility clinic should have told her that the egg extraction procedure could result in infertility.

The 52 year-old woman filed the lawsuit against Roh Sung-il, head of the clinic, and Hwang Woo-suk, the scientist whose team caused the international controversy over its falsified embryonic stem cell research.

According to the Korea Times newspaper, a panel of judges on the court determined that Mizmedi Hospital intentionally failed to tell the woman about the dangers.

The woman, identified only by her family name Han, had the egg extraction procedure done and later failed to become pregnant. Her lawsuit originally asked for more than $525 million.

Roh was listed as one of the specialists in the two papers Hwang’s team submitted to the scientific journal Science. The papers claimed the team successfully cloned a human embryo and cloned patient-specific embryonic stem cells that would overcome immune system rejection issues. Both claims turned out to be false.

A May report from the government, which has been investigating whether Hwang embezzled both public and private research grants, revealed Hwang’s team used five times more human eggs in their research than they claimed.

The news is disturbing to bioethics observers because people on both sides of the stem cell research debate are concerned that egg donations take advantage of women, especially, the poor, and can lead to coercion.

Government prosecutors said they found Hwang’s team used 2,236 ova taken from 136 women between November 2002 and December 2005. The number is far more than the 427 eggs Hwang’s team claims to have used.

The donations came from four medical institutions that worked with Hwang’s team, including MizMedi Hospital.

The government report said Hwang paid millions of dollars to 25 women who provided eggs for his research through the Hanna Women’s Clinic in the first eight months of 2005.

Meanwhile, the government determined Hanyang University Medical Center gave Hwang’s teams human eggs for its research without the consent of donors, a violation of the nation’s bioethics laws.