To achieve its full potential, embryonic stem cell research will need a supply of human eggs. The scientists’ reports should calm the overblown rhetoric in this controversy. Certainly there are medical, ethical and legal issues surrounding egg donation that must be resolved. But reasoned debate and sound policy must be based on facts, not on fears fanned by partisans.
Though opponents of stem cell research argue that the medical risks of donating eggs are substantial and poorly understood. But a report released last month by medical experts chosen by the national Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies of Science, concluded otherwise.
In fact, the same egg-harvesting procedures that would be used to collect eggs for stem cell research are performed every day in this country - including in St. Louis - to assist infertile couples.
Thousands of women in the United States undergo fertility treatments every year, and thousands more donate their eggs to infertile couples. Their short-term health risks, including surgical problems, infections and a complication caused by hormones used to stimulate egg development, are relatively low.
Specialists at England’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, that country’s watchdog agency for fertility treatment and research, came to similar conclusions. The British experts cleared the way for women there to donate eggs for research.