Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorJody W.ZylkeMD, Contributing EditorIndividualAuthor
In Reply: Dr Cohen and Ms Dresser point out that creating human embryonic stem cell lines will require a large supply of human eggs. Obtaining these may require the use of financial inducements. They fault us for failing to discuss the ethical and social issues raised by such commercialization.
Although we acknowledge the importance of this issue, we did not discuss it for 2 reasons. First, a substantial market in human eggs already exists. A visit to the Web sites of numerous donor egg programs reveals that the practice of paying for egg donation is already quite extensive. A recent statement by the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine permits such compensation so long as it is fair and not so substantial that it becomes an undue inducement that leads egg donors to discount potential risks.1 Similar guidelines presumably would apply to the ethical conduct of egg donation for research purposes. The existing egg market may be seen as morally acceptable because it allows some women to help other infertile women have children. It is not clear why a willingness to contribute to health-related research is any less valid a motivation for egg donation.
Lanza RP, Cibelli JB, West MD, Silver LM, Green RM. Ethical Issues in Embryonic Stem Cell Research—Reply. JAMA. 2001;285(11):1439-1440. doi:10.1001/jama.285.11.1439