Loane Skene now takes feminist line
Four years after her committee advised the Australian government to ban a market for women’s eggs for human embryonic stem cell research, Melbourne University Professor Loane Skene has apparently changed her mind. Law professor and bioethicst Skene headed a committee appointed by the Australian government to review stem cell policy back in 2005. (She was originally the deputy chair, but the chair, John Lockhart, died shortly after the committee’s report was published). The government took up the Lockhart committee’s advice that “payment to donors should not be permitted beyond reimbursement of reasonable expenses”.
Now, however, she has argued strongly in the Sydney Morning Herald that “Prohibiting them from being paid may seem an unwarranted restriction of their autonomy — the hand of the nanny state.” After all, compensation for other dangerous work, like construction or prostitution, is an established principle. Why not donating eggs?
This turnabout was prompted by a statement that startled the Australian stem cell community. The leading Australian champion of hESC research, Alan Trounson, had just conceded that they probably are no longer needed. Trounson, who was headhunted to lead the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, said on Melbourne radio that induced pluripotent stem cells had effectively made hESC cells obsolete. Professor Skene now regards a market for eggs as a woman’s right. With a review of the legislation which has banned the commercialisation of eggs coming up next year, she wants to keep the door wide open for hESC research — just in case it does work. ~ Lockhart Report; SMH, Nov 17
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