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Stem Cells in California

Genetic Crossroads
September 14th, 2006

Women's Health Victory: Bill on Eggs for Research Awaits Governor's Signature

A bill to minimize risks for women who provide eggs for stem cell research passed the California State legislature with overwhelming support, and now awaits the Governor's signature. The bill, SB 1260, was authored by Senator Deborah Ortiz (D-CA), a women's health advocate and an early supporter of stem cell research in California. The organizations that worked closely with the Senator's office on this landmark bill—the Center for Genetics and Society, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, and Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research—are hopeful that the Governor will sign it. Similar provisions have been adopted or recommended elsewhere, but SB 1260 is the first legislation of its kind in the US.

SB 1260 would apply to egg procurement that takes place outside of research funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), California's $3 billion dollar stem cell agency. In conjunction with CIRM's recently passed regulations, SB 1260 would ensure that all procurement of eggs for stem cell research in California must meet certain standards. These include measures to ensure that women receive medically accurate information about health and consumer issues associated with egg retrieval, that the costs of medical treatments for any adverse reactions to the egg retrieval procedures are covered, that the doctor performing the egg retrieval not have any financial interest in the research for which the eggs will be used, and that women who provide eggs for research are reimbursed for their expenses but not paid beyond that.

The rules limiting payments for egg retrieval are the most controversial aspect of the bill. In the U.S., similar provisions have been adopted in Massachusetts, by CIRM, and by the National Academies of Sciences. Canada, South Korea and the European Union have also passed laws limiting compensation.

The controversy about procuring eggs for research was discussed in two articles published on the same day in the Los Angeles Times (1, 2). Among those quoted expressing concern about the emergence of a market in eggs are CGS's Emily Galpern, Susan Fogel of the Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, and Northwestern University bioethicist Laurie Zoloth.

Read a fact sheet on SB 1260.

Read the full text [PDF] of the bill.

Related Article:

bullet Opinion: Judith Daar and Russell Korobkin, "You Want Cures? Pay Up," Los Angeles Times (August 30)

Bill to Strengthen Accountability of California's Stem Cell Agency Waylaid

The other effort by Sen. Ortiz to improve oversight of stem cell research in California has failed. A legislative committee tabled a bill that would have strengthened accountability and transparency at CIRM by modifying the initiative that established it. Ortiz vocally supported the initiative when it was on the ballot in 2004, but soon after its passage vowed to work to repair its flaws.

After a similar failed attempt to modify the initiative in 2005, this year the senator introduced SB 401, which required passage by both houses of the Legislature, the governor's signature, and approval by voters to become law. The bill had passed two committees and a full floor vote in the Senate. Yet in its first stop in the Assembly, the committee chair ordered the bill to be held in the committee indefinitely.

If SB 401 had become law, it would have required the members of CIRM's advisory groups to publicly disclose their personal financial interests, and would have guaranteed a return to the state on any successful CIRM-funded discoveries.

Both SB 401 and its 2005 predecessor, SCA 13, were opposed by CIRM.

With Ortiz leaving office, a critical voice will be absent in the legislature. Further action is unlikely until 2008, when the three-year period during which Proposition 71 mandates an extraordinarily high barrier to legislative modification will end.

Public Workshop on Medical Risks of Egg Procurement

A public workshop called "Assessing the Medical Risks of Human Oocyte Donation for Stem Cell Research" will be held on September 28 in San Francisco. The workshop is being organized by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, which at the request of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine appointed a committee to assess the current state of knowledge of the medical risks of egg procurement for stem cell research.

Workshop topics include ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome; surgical and anesthetic risks; psychological risks; cancer risks; future fertility; similarities and differences in the process of egg procurement for clinical treatment vs research; and a synthesis and review of current knowledge, gaps, how to avoid risks, and future considerations. Register for the workshop.

Most observers agree that data on the risks of egg retrieval, and follow-up studies on women who have undergone the procedures, are grossly inadequate. To the extent that the workshop begins to fill these research gaps it is a welcome step.


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