"Current estimates suggest there are hundreds of thousands of embryos that remain in fertility clinics from couples who created them for reproductive purposes," Botkin says. "Many of these couples have fulfilled their reproductive goals, meaning the leftover embryos will ultimately be discarded."
He says that under the Obama administration, the new NIH guidelines state "that these 'spare' embryos can be used for stem cell research if the couple who produced the embryos has given their full informed consent."
"For stem cells created after July 7, 2009, the guidelines are clear about the nature of the informed consent from couples who have 'spare' embryos," Botkin says. "The committee will not review proposed cell lines created after that date, although they will be reviewed administratively at the NIH. However, for lines created before July 7, 2009, review of the consent forms and the process by which the stem cells were created will be the responsibility of the committee."
He says the panel will ask, "Can we be assured that the couple fully understood their options, including use of their embryos in research, and agreed to the donation without any element of coercion or manipulation?"
Embryonic stem cell lines created in other nations often don't meet U.S. standards for informed consent, but the panel will ask whether the consent and process used to obtain the cells adequately fulfill the ethical principles in NIH guidelines. "If so, lines created internationally may be eligible for research using federal funds," Botkin says.
|Contact: Lee Siegel|
University of Utah