Policy ForumEthics

Issues in Oocyte Donation for Stem Cell Research

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Science  17 Jun 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5729, pp. 1747-1748
DOI: 10.1126/science.1114454


Stem cell research on human embryonic stem cells derived through use of oocytes originally obtained specifically for research and not for reproductive or medical purposes creates a new class of research subject. In this Policy Forum, the authors explore the ethical issues for those who perform such studies and for research donors. Healthy oocyte donors differ from traditional research subjects in that neither they nor their tissues are the direct objects of study but their tissues are used to create materials for research. Yet they are exposed to significant risks and have no prospect of direct benefit. Researchers in the U.S. who conduct such studies in other countries should follow U.S. guidelines such as those recently released by the National Research Council-Institute of Medicine, even if they are not required by law, because of the special ethical considerations raised by this new category of research subject. The informed consent process for donors should not minimize the risks of oocyte procurement just because the donors are not giving their oocytes for reproductive purposes, or portray stem cell transplantation research as an existing therapy.

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