Stem cell scientists eager to obtain women’s eggs must guard against the temptation to overplay the benefits of their research, say two Stanford bioethicists. Mildred Cho and David Magnus argue that there is a danger of “therapeutic misconception” — especially in California, where research is building up — because egg donors are likely to be women with relatives afflicted with some disease. They may be donating in the belief that their loved one may somehow benefit from their efforts. However, this is unlikely, say Cho and Magnus.
“Pursuing oocyte donors from families who are afflicted with disease that are potential targets of future or present stem cell research is likely to be a more successful strategy than attempting to procure them from among healthy young women who typically are paid thousands of dollars to “donate” oocytes for infertile couples. But it will be imperative that these donors comprehend the well- understood risks of being an oocyte donor and also understand that human ESC research is in its infancy. Even CIRM’s [California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s] strategic plan recognises that it is unlikely that there will be any treatments within the next decade. Women’s voluntary donation of oocytes may be critical to research, but it is far too early for women to do so with the expectation that their donation is going to lead to cures anytime soon.”
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