The debate about stem cell research has focused for years on the moral status of the human embryo, largely overlooking the welfare of women who will provide eggs to produce those embryos. But that situation is changing. The recent revelations about ethical breaches in obtaining eggs for research in Korea have brought attention to the implications for women's health and the potential commodification of their eggs.
The current controversy surrounds Hwang Woo-suk, the South Korean researcher who achieved celebrity status after creating the world's first cloned human embryos in 2004. Last month, Hwang announced the establishment of the World Stem Cell Foundation with great fanfare, accompanied by high international interest. Last week, however, Hwang resigned from his position as head of the foundation after admitting that his lab had received eggs both from women who had been paid and from two junior researchers on his team.
Under widely accepted international guidelines, scientists do not conduct research on human subjects who are in a dependent relationship with them, in order to avoid exploitation. While Hwang did not break any laws in...