by Steven Ertelt
November 27, 2006
Seoul, South Korea (LifeNews.com) — A South Korean governmental committee issued a report last week on the human eggs Hwang Woo-suk’s research team collected for its embryonic stem cell research and human cloning experiments. The panel said Hwang’s team violated numerous guidelines and misled women.
The National Consultative Ethics Committee for Life report indicated that 100 of the 138 women Hwang’s team secured human egg donations from were treated improperly under the country’s bioethics guidelines.
The board said women were not adequately notified of the potential risks in the egg collection process and it said that written consent forms used in soliciting the women’s eggs were not properly submitted for review.
The committee also verified that Hwang did coerce two junior researchers in 2003 to donate their human eggs for his team’s studies.
Revelations about the egg donations came to light in November of last year and paved the way for the intense scrutiny that revealed all of Hwang’s human cloning and embryonic stem cell research was fraudulent.
The committee said it planned to introduce more stringent measures in light of the abuses, according to a Korean Times report.
"To prevent possible recurrences of these unethical practices, we plan to strengthen the Institutional Review Board and strictly ban trades of human eggs,’’ the committee said in a statement," according to the newspaper.
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.
Meanwhile, the South Korean government has submitted a bill to the nation’s legislature to limit to three the number of times women can donate their eggs for research in order to reduce exploitation.
Previously, 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 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.
In June, a hospital 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.
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.