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March 21, 2001

Ethical Issues in Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorJody W.ZylkeMD, Contributing EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2001;285(11):1439-1440. doi:10.1001/jama.285.11.1439

To the Editor: In advocating the creation of embryos for stem cell research by means of somatic cell nuclear transfer, Dr Lanza and colleagues1 fail to recognize at least 2 major issues. First, they overlook the fact that human embryos must be created from the eggs of women. Producing eggs engenders increased risks for women. Hyperstimulation can lead to liver damage, kidney failure, or stroke, and ovulation-stimulating drugs have been associated with ovarian cancer, according to some studies.2 Although women might be willing to undergo such risks for the sake of having a child, it seems clear that either payment for eggs or coercion would have to be used to persuade women to produce eggs for stem cell research.3 As with kidneys, hearts, and certain other body parts, society is reluctant to allow human eggs to enter into the stream of commerce, fearing that this would compromise extraeconomic values of deep importance.4 Coercion as a means of promoting medical research has been strongly criticized.3 Thus, before considering embryonic stem cell research, procedures need to be developed to protect women's health and freedom from overbearing financial or other pressure.5