"Informing egg donors of the potential for embryonic research: Results from a survey of consent forms from US IVF clinics" by Owen Schaefer

Past Event

24 May 2012, 6:30pm - 8:00pm

St Cross College
61 St Giles, Oxford OX1 3LZ

This lecture is hosted by the Institute for Science and Ethics

Summary: Human embryonic stem cell research has been a lightning rod of controversy since the first embryonic stem cell lines were derived in 1998. Most of the controversy revolves around the provenance of the lines; the derivation of cells to develop an embryonic stem cell line usually results in destruction of the embryo, which some view as unethical. To alleviate such concerns, US guidelines prohibit federal funding for the derivation of such lines, and only fund further research on embryonic stem cell lines derived from excess embryos created during assisted reproductive treatment – embryos that would otherwise be discarded. Furthermore, the couple seeking assisted reproductive treatment must consent to the use of their excess embryos for stem cell research. However, current regulations do not require egg or sperm donors to give such consent, or even be informed of the potential for embryonic research. This is especially problematic for egg donors, who might have serious objections to stem cell research and therefore decline to go through the burdensome procedure of egg donation had they been informed of the potential research. We sought to determine the extent to which egg donors are in fact informed of potential research on resultant embryos, in the absence of requirements to do so. Sixty-six egg donor consent forms from US IVF clinics that donate at least some excess embryos for research were analyzed. We found that only a minority of donor forms mention the possibility of research, and an even smaller portion mention stem cell research. This can be corrected with the inclusion of succinct, non-technical language in egg donor consent forms.

Speaker: Owen Schaefer, reading for the B.Phil in Philosophy, University of Oxford

Biography: Owen Schaefer is currently reading for the B.Phil in Philosophy here at Oxford. His interests lie in moral philosophy, especially applied ethics, as well as political philosophy and personal identity. Prior to coming to Oxford, Owen spent two years as a fellow at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center’s Department of Bioethics in Bethesda, MD, where he conducted research in research ethics, attended Institutional Review Board meetings and participated in the Clinical Center’s ethics consultation service. He has previously written on the obligation to participate in research and the nature of the right to withdraw, and has more recently become interested in the ethics of human enhancement. His B.Phil thesis is on the topic of how moral enhancement may be problematized by widespread moral disagreement.

This talk will be followed by a drinks reception and a dinner, and is open to all. However, those wishing to attend either the talk or dinner must email rachel.gaminiratne@philosophy.ox.ac.uk