Scientists Question CIRM Policy To Not Compensate Egg Donors
Scientists from around the country on Wednesday criticized a provision of Proposition 71 that prohibits women from receiving compensation from the state for donating eggs needed to generate human embryonic stem cells, the Sacramento Bee reports. Proposition 71 bans payment to donors beyond compensation for direct expenses.
Speaking at the first meeting of the Scientific and Medical Accountability Standards Working Group, one of three expert panels that advise the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee, Harvard University biologist Ann Kiessling said women who wish to donate eggs might be financially unable to do so without compensation.
Kiessling said, "All normal, healthy subjects that undergo any research in this country are compensated for their time." Kiessling said the average compensation was $4,000 and added that women could face financial difficulties if they lose wages as a result of their involvement in egg donation.
However, the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year issued ethical guidelines for stem cell research, including a recommendation that egg donors not be paid. ICOC in May adopted the NAS guidelines temporarily while it considers modifications.
ICOC Chair and working group member Robert Klein said, "It's a more challenging provision, but it provides us with a higher ethical standard." Klein said the provision was written as a safeguard so that women would not feel pressured to sell their eggs for financial reasons.
Klein said in an interview that the provision could not be changed because it is part of the Proposition 71 law approved by voters in November 2004 and added that he continued to support the provision. Klein said employers should compensate workers who donate eggs because the donors are performing "a public service to society" (Lau, Sacramento Bee, 7/7).
The embryonic stem cell industry "has not boomed," but Proposition 71 has led to an "infusion" of investment, Wired reports.
Robert Lanza, vice president of medical and scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts, said, "We're flush with cash, and just months ago we were struggling as a private company to even make payroll and to keep the phones on."
However, a number of factors that have created a "chilly climate" for stem cell companies are still affecting investment in the industry, Wired reports.
Ken Haas of Abingworth Management, a venture capital firm specializing in life science biomedical companies, at the International Society for Stem Cell Research meeting in San Francisco last month said that major pharmaceutical companies are still not funding early research. Haas said that because of higher expectations from investors, the investment necessary to bring a company public has doubled, while the returns have decreased.
Simon Best, CEO of Ardana Bioscience in Scotland, said, "The political and ethical environment in the United States is dampening down the [venture capital] community globally in terms of their willingness to invest" in stem cell research (Philipkoski, Wired, 7/6).
Stem cell research supporters who "flippantly deny ethical concerns about destroying human life simply by questioning the religious motives of some research opponents" fail to address "the subject of the argument," Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) writes in a Bee opinion piece. Lungren writes that there "is perhaps no clearer example of this ongoing tension between science and ethics than the debate over the destruction of human embryos for stem cell research" (Lungren, Sacramento Bee, 7/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.