Recruiting women to donate eggs for stem cell research brings scientists into new ethical territory where the standards are still being worked out, ethicists say. Women who donate eggs have to take drugs and undergo minor surgery. This puts them at risk for side effects, yet there is no immediate benefit to them or anyone else — an uneasy and probably unprecedented combination. People volunteer to be a part of other types of research that promise them no benefit, but the risks are negligible. On the other hand, there are many patients who volunteer for research that poses real risks, such as studies of experimental drugs, but this is offset by the immediate possibility that they might be helped. And living kidney and liver donors face risks, but with the immediate benefit of helping the person who needs the organ transplant. Today, fertility clinics routinely recruit women to donate eggs, but the eggs are used to help other women become pregnant, and there is a reasonable chance of success. In contrast, the chances of success for cloning human embryonic stem cells are unknown, creating a quandary for ethicists and society: How much risk should a woman […]

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