British Stem Cell Researchers Will Pay Women for Eggs, Use Human Cloning

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 27, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Stem Cell Researchers Will Pay Women for Eggs, Use Human Cloning Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 27, 2006

Newcastle, England ( — A British stem cell research institute has been given permission to pay women for their eggs for studies and will use cloning to create embryos from them. The decision prompts concerns for bioethicists who say that paying women for eggs for research opens up a list of problems including coercion and taking advantage of poor women.

The North East England Stem Cell Institute can ask women undergoing infertility treatments if they would like to be paid for any extra eggs produced in the process.

The payment will come from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), the nation’s bioethics watchdog group, and it will essentially consist of a reimbursement for a portion of the fertility treatment costs.

Angela McNab, the chief executive of the HFEA, explained the new payment process in a statement, according to a Reuters report.

"We have made an offer of a license to Newcastle Fertility Center at Life which, if the conditions are accepted by the research team, would allow them to carry out an ‘egg-sharing’ scheme in which women who are already undergoing fertility treatment can donate some of their eggs for use in research in return for some of their treatment costs being met," she said.

The donated eggs will be used to create human embryos for the sole purpose of destroying them for their stem cells for research.

Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has previously said that scientists should not be recruiting women to donate their eggs.

The egg extraction procedure is significantly painful and comes with a number of potential medical complications.

"They could be made sick for what the researchers admit that for many years will simply be a scientific experiment," Doerflinger said.

This is the first time that any British agency has been allowed to pay women for their eggs for research. Previously they were allowed to ask women to simply donate the eggs if they produced 12 or more for the infertility treatments.

HFEA has planned a query to begin in September during which it will consider various views on the issue of paying women for their eggs. However, the governmental agency decided to move forward with the license offer to the stem cell institute ahead of that investigation.

"We have made the offer on the understanding that the center will provide regular information to the HFEA on its progress," McNab said.

"The Newcastle team are also aware that should new policy be made as a result of the public consultation that the license committee are able to review the amendment to their license," McNab added.