Stem Cell Research Scientists’ Group Drafts New Ethics Guidelines

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 2, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 2
, 2007

Washington, DC ( — An international organization for scientists who engage in embryonic stem cell research has drafted new ethics guidelines regarding consent from people donating human eggs for research but did not finalize rules on whether to pay women who donate their eggs.

The International Society for Stem Cell Research released a 15-page set of rules Thursday.

They come at a time when embryonic stem cell research has been surrounded by scandal with one of the world’s top scientists and his research team faking two supposedly groundbreaking papers showing advances in the controversial science.

Bioethicists from 14 nations participated in creating the new guidelines, which are meant to provide direction to the world’s stem cell researchers but are not binding on them.

The guidelines calls for institutions where embryonic stem cell research takes places to have more oversight and scrutiny on the research but did not specify how that oversight would be achieved.

They also require explicit consent from anyone who donates human eggs for research but didn’t reach a consensus on whether women should be paid. Critics say that paying women leads to exploitation, especially of poor women.

Dr. George Daley of Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard University, told Reuters that he hopes the guidelines will help prevent more problems with scientists like Hwang Woo-suk.

Hwang and his team claimed to have cloned human embryos and made patient-specific embryonic stem cells that could overcome immune system rejection issues.

"We certainly hope that having guidelines like this in place will act to minimize the possibility that such a debacle will occur in the future," Daley, the society’s present-elect, said.

However, pro-life advocates dismissed the new guidelines and said it wouldn’t have the intended effect.

"This is worthless as an ethical guide because it is issued by scientists and entrepreneurs who have dedicated their careers to destructive human cloning and human embryo research and who will profit from the expansion of these abuses," said Richard Doerflinger, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Reuters.

"It is a recipe guide for how to prepare the chicken, written by the foxes," he commented.

The guidelines condemn human cloning for reproductive purposes but allow it for research and support the creation of human-animal chimeras.