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HFEA to consult on altruistic egg donation

15 May 2006
Appeared in BioNews 358

At its open meeting held on 10 May in Belfast, the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) announced that it will 'prepare a proper consultation programme' on oocyte (egg) donation so that it could assess the whole range of views and ethical issues that the process raises. However, the consultation - and any subsequent guidance - will not affect any research projects already licensed under the current rules.

At the open meeting, where the HFEA also announced that PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) for lower penetrance genetic diseases could now be undertaken under licence, the authority also discussed whether women should be permitted to donate eggs for research that could lead to treatments for other diseases. Such 'altruistic' egg donations can already take place when it is done to help infertile women, but eggs for research can currently only be taken, with consent, from women already undergoing fertility treatment or those being sterilised. The authority was also considering the appropriateness of allowing donation from women in 'egg-sharing' schemes, who receive discounted fertility treatment in return for donating some of their eggs. However, the end result of the meeting's discussion was inconclusive and, having failed to reach a decision, the authority decided to consult on the issue instead.

Giving reasons for the indecision, Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the HFEA, said that more information that has come to light since the HFEA first considered altruistic egg donation, such as the Korean embryonic stem cell scandal, where eggs were procured for research unethically, and the dangers of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome (OHSS). She said that there was 'particular concern' among those at the meeting about 'the availability of proper information for women about the donation process and how to ensure there was properly informed consent'. She continued: 'The authority heard today that there are international concerns that could limit the potential of research if there were concerns about how eggs are donated. We also need to make sure that there is a proper whistle blowing policy to ensure that researchers are able to make concerns known as quickly as possible'.

Authority decision on eggs for research
HFEA press release |  10 May 2006
19 July 2010 - by Anoushka Shepherd 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) held its open Authority meeting on Wednesday 7 July. The meeting discussed general advances in its work, received feedback from the Hampton Working Group and considered the data of compliance with multiple birth rate targets. The most pertinent and interesting presentation focused on feedback regarding the evaluation of the Donation Review...
7 January 2007 - by Heidi Nicholl 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has, for the first time, amended a licence for stem cell research to be carried out, which allows women to donate eggs without needing the donation to be linked to ongoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or sterilisation procedures. The...
21 September 2006 - by Veronica English 
The British Medical Association (BMA)'s Medical Ethics Committee (MEC) recently had a long and fascinating debate about egg donation for research. The debate was much broader than the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA)'s consultation document, looking also at related issues such as payment for donation of other...
11 September 2006 - by Dr Kirsty Horsey 
The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has launched a public consultation on the donation of eggs for scientific research purposes. The consultation was announced in May after discussions at an HFEA public meeting failed to reach a conclusion on the issue. It will run...
14 August 2006 - by Heidi Nicholl 
A leading bioethicist, Dr Insoo Hyun of Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, US, has called for women to be paid to donate eggs for stem cell research on the same basis that research participants are compensated for taking part in other medical research. In a Nature commentary...
17 February 2006 - by BioNews 
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology and Authority (HFEA), which regulates fertility treatment and embryo research in the UK, is considering allowing altruistic egg donation for therapeutic cloning research. According to a report in the Times newspaper, the authority may soon approve new rules that will allow women to donate eggs...
13 February 2006 - by BioNews 
Seoul National University (SNU) has suspended the discredited South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang and six other professors in his team from their teaching and research posts. The scientists have yet to be formally punished by SNU, for faking data and breaching ethical standards in their work on human embryonic...
13 January 2006 - by BioNews 
UK researchers are seeking permission to use rabbit eggs to create human stem cells for studying motor neurone disease. Professor Chris Shaw, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and Professor Ian Wilmut, who led the Edinburgh University team that created Dolly the sheep, are discussing their planned experiments with...
9 January 2006 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
For those aiming to develop new, stem-cell based therapies for conditions such as spinal cord injury and diabetes, 2005 will be remembered as the year in which hopes were first raised beyond everyone's expectations - only to be dashed, when apparently groundbreaking research was revealed to be an audacious hoax. The...
28 July 2005 - by BioNews 
Professor Ian Wilmut, the pioneering creator of Dolly the sheep, is seeking permission from the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) to ask women to donate eggs for cloning experiments in his work on motor neurone disease. Professor Wilmut, who was granted a cloning licence by the HFEA in...
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