I have just had an interesting discussion with "anonymous" about the ethical issues associated with stem cell research. Yesterday I saw that an organisation called International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) have released a document in which they spell out some ethical guidelines. You can read about it here. ISSCR, controversially, states that they think it is okay to pay women to donate eggs. This has been largely prohibited before. Their argument is that the money in itself is only an issue if women start to ignore risks because of the gain.
“What you need to focus on is not the amount of money changing hands, but rather how the financial consideration is affecting the decision the woman goes through,” Daley says. “If it would make [the potential donor] trivialise any of the risks then it constitutes an undue inducement.”
A private reflection is that medical testing would come to a complete stop if money were not paid to subjects. Who would want to go to Astra and have something injected for fun? I have myself considered taking part in pharmacological studies because you get well paid and only expose yourself to low risks. I don´t think I would do it for free however. I do not really see the difference between the two examples. Of course it would be a problem if women ignored their own health and started to make a living out of donating eggs, however, it would also be a problem if they made a living from taking part in medical trials.
I think that rather than prohibiting payments, we should try and make sure, as far as possible, that women do not start to make a living out of donating eggs, hard as that may be. We should also keep in mind that stem cell research probably is our best hope when it comes to curing some of the worst diseases out there...