Although New York state's decision to allow state-funded embryonic stem cell researchers to compensate women for donating their eggs "has provoked criticism from some ethicists and runs counter to guidelines issued by" NIH and the National Academy of Sciences, it still "seems justifiable" to pay the women "for undergoing an arduous procedure and to spur progress on potentially important research that has been slowed because of a lack of human eggs," a New York Times editorial states. The state's Empire State Stem Cell Board last month made the decision to allow researchers to pay women up to $10,000 as compensation.

According to the editorial, "[w]omen already get paid comparable sums to donate their eggs to help infertile women have a child through in vitro fertilization," so it "is hard to see why they should not be paid for contributing their eggs for research." The editorial notes that the "money is meant as reimbursement for travel, housing, child care or medical expenses," and it also would "compensate the women for the considerable time, burden and inconvenience of harvesting their eggs, a process that can take 56 hours spread out over many weeks."

"The board set reasonable constraints, insisting that the research be rigorously reviewed and approved by oversight committees, that donors be fully informed of potential physical and psychological risks and that they give informed consent to the procedure," the editorial states. It adds, "One concern has been that payments could induce women, especially poor women, to provide eggs without fully considering potential risks." The editorial continues, "In an effort to mitigate that possibility, the stem cell board will follow the guidelines of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, which require justification for payments of $5,000 or more and deem sums above $10,000 inappropriate."

The editorial adds, "Human eggs are highly prized for some of the most promising research, notably studies that require matching embryonic stem cells to a particular patient with a particular disease," concluding, "It has proved almost impossible to recruit women to go through the arduous process for free," so the "board was right to allow fair compensation" (New York Times, 7/11).

Reprinted with kind permission from nationalpartnership. You can view the entire Daily Women's Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery here. The Daily Women's Health Policy Report is a free service of the National Partnership for Women & Families, published by The Advisory Board Company.

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