Is it ethical to pay a woman to donate her eggs for research purposes?

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That’s exactly what the state of New York decided to allow. As first reported in the New York Times July 11th, the Empire State Stem Cell Board has decided to allow compensation of up to $10,000 be paid to women who donate their eggs to embryonic stem cell research.

A lack of human eggs has slowed stem cell research that could potentially help millions of individuals including those with spinal cord injuries. While such compensation runs counter to the guidelines set out by the National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences, the NY Board suggests that compensation is justifiable and meant to reimburse women for the considerable time, inconvenience, and burden of harvesting their eggs which can take up to 56 hours over several weeks. The payment is meant to reimburse women for their direct costs including travel, child care, and medical expenses.

Opponents argue that such compensation could induce women, especially poor women, to donate their eggs without proper consideration of the risks involved. However, such payments are in line with the guidelines of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine which allows women to be compensated by the same amount for donating their eggs to help infertile couples conceive a child. In addition, the NY Board set constraints on providing counseling regarding potential physical and psychological risks and informed consent must be given prior to participation.

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