UK agency that regulates embryo research and assisted reproduction
is about to decide whether to loosen its guidelines on the procurement
of women's eggs for research. Because of the health risks of the
egg retrieval process, the current policy of the Human Fertilisation
and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is that eggs can be collected only
when women are already undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The HFEA will rule on whether to allow scientists to collect eggs
from women solely for research purposes. Also being considered are
proposals to allow researchers' relatives to provide eggs, and to
permit reduction in the cost of fertility treatments if women agree
to give some of their eggs to research.
published in The Guardian from scholars and representatives
of several UK and European public-interest organizations called
on the HFEA to reject the proposal. "[B]ecause of the inefficiency
of cloning, which means that hundreds, maybe thousands, of eggs
are needed," they wrote, "researchers are now calling
for a change to the ethical rules, allowing for `altruistic' egg
donation from women who are not undergoing IVF, and who will receive
no therapeutic benefit."
The letter continues,
"We are in favour of women's rights to control their bodies
and their fertility. We believe that the risks of hormonal hyperstimulation
of the ovaries cannot be justified in basic research, in which the
benefits are very uncertain: the risk/benefit ratio is far too high.
There are alternative approaches to the research goals. The recent
cloning research scandal in Korea, in which many women were harmed,
should show us the hazards of a scientific race to be the first
to create cloned embryos. We call on the HFEA to reject this proposal,
which represents a significant danger to women's health, and is
a form of exploitation of women's bodies."