Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Unethical to pay for eggs but not for sperm?

You can listen to "Defining the Ethics of Stem Cell Research", an NPR interview with a member of NAS discussing ethical issues behind embryonic stem cell research.

One of the things they discuss is that it is unethical to pay women for their eggs. The NAS member says that they want to avoid creating a market for reproductive material.

So what about sperm? (sometimes called "the other white gamete" or "the tiny gamete") People pay men for sperm without giving it a second thought. However, there's just as much genetic material in the nucleus of sperm as there is in an egg. You can't do ANYTHING with (a single) sperm alone, nor can you do anything with an egg alone.

So what's the big deal? Why is it completely okay to have a market for sperm but not a market for eggs? Is it because eggs are a finite resource (per woman) whereas thanks to the miracles of reverse transcription there's always a supply of sperm?

Something just doesn't seem right here.


K said...

I thought that piece was biased, (they didn't even try to discuss the fact that some people think it's wrong to destroy embryos for science) and the Monday afternoon lead-in by Renee Montagne was a lie.

Theo said...

Well, calling it a "lie" seems sort of biased, doesn't it?

I have no problem with the piece. I do have a problem with people who know very little about SCNT being so sure of themselves.

I just think that maybe the "ethical questions" with paying women for ova are not so great. Maybe there really isn't a problem to pay women for ova.

Personally, I think that this idea that men can be paid for sperm and women cannot (and should not) be paid for ova is just another example of a patriarchy-based policy. The "protections" for women here are too heavy handed and end up doing a disservice to women (and equality in general).

I don't know what the right answer to the compensation question is... but I think it's sad that "ethical problems" prevent us from even discussing it.

Theo said...

Huh. This is the only post on Technorati tagged with SCNT... (this is the only del.icio.us page tagged with SCNT)

Go figure.

K said...

The lie was the lead-in, where she specifically stated that a topic of discussion would be "why it's necessary". This was never discussed.

What I thought was biased was the fact that the main (to me) ethical discussion - killing a human for research - was never mentioned/

~ange said...

Women can be paid for eggs that lead to conception (I've heard up to 20K depending on the desirability of the genes). Maybe they were differentiating based on the surgery involved(?) There's a lot of similar debate in giving monetary compensation for organ/ tissue donation. Though usually the recipient's insurance covers the cost of the donor's med bills, it's illegal to provide an incentive such as pay for lost work or even housing or transportation to the donation site. Now, few people object to someone donating a kidney to save a life, but it is interesting that the ethical debate over stem cell research is again sidetracked by distraction. I was pleased Harvard finally got into the running..