It’s right to pay women who give their eggs for research, writes Ronald Green, chair of the ethics advisory board for the stem cell company that is recruiting the largest pool of potential egg donors for stem cell research. He’s on the right track, frankly, in that egg donation for research isn’t fundamentally different from egg donation for reproduction, and that if it is ok to pay women to donate eggs for reproduction, then it is ok to pay them to donate for research.
But it isn’t right to pay them for reproductive donation. In reproductive donation of eggs, the kiddos from colleges are offered preposterous amounts of money for their egg donation, and it has long been suggested that exploitative payments encourage donors who have high credit card debt, etc. Big problem. In egg donation for stem cell research, by contrast, the fee will be smaller. But it will still be priced high enough to attract the very young women whose eggs are best suited (it turns out, as we blogged) to produce stem cells. The payment is not for out of pocket expenses – at which point one would really know that these women are risking their fertility and even their lives for the cause. No, this is just buying eggs cheap. The women are every bit as coerced – in fact perhaps more so.
The big issue in egg donation is that it has to be truly consensual, not bribed.
[disclosure: Dr. McGee was Chair of the Advanced Cell Technology ethics advisory board until 2000]