NY stem cell researchers can pay egg donors

About Scott Hensley

Scott Hensley runs NPR's online health channel, Shots. Previously he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog and covered the drug industry and the Human Genome Project for the Journal. Hensley serves on AHCJ's board of directors. You can follow him at @ScottHensley.

The ethical thicket that is stem cell research just got a little more complex. New York became the first state to allow taxpayer-funded researchers to pay women to donate eggs specifically for stem cell experiments.

“Stripped” human oocyte; granulosa cells that had surrounded this oocyte have been removed. Courtesy: RWJMS IVF Laboratory via Wikimedia Commons

The compensation could run as high as $10,000. Supporters argue it will spur better, quicker research results. Opponents say paying for eggs crosses an ethical line.

The state board that made the new policy says it’s just like compensating women for donating eggs for reproductive purposes. But the National Academy of Sciences doesn’t see it that way, saying in its guidelines for stem cell research that payment to donors for eggs is a no-no.

Some scientists in the field say the main source now — eggs left over from in vitro fertilization procedures — hasn’t been adequate. (New York won’t pay for those eggs under the new policy anyway.)

Scientists outside New York are already envious. Harvard stem cell researcher George Q. Daley, told The New York Times, the payment policy “will mean a tremendous advantage” for labs in New York.

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