I hear about it all the time when it comes to using young women and their eggs for embryo stem cell and cloning research: “They have given voluntary consent”, “We have informed them of the risks.” I hear it referred to and quoted often as a way to assure ourselves with our hands over our hearts that it has been invoked.
The informed consent is the legal signed document that can be the “ticket out of jail card” in case of lawsuit. She knew the risks. She was informed. And yet she gave her consent. But I ask-has anyone ever seen this document? What exactly is in the informed consent document that these young women are being asked to sign as they offer their bodies on the alter of the lab bench of science? What is the risk to benefit ratio for them? I see zero benefit and huge risk.
Principle #5 in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki states, “Every biomedical project involving human subjects should be preceded by careful assessment of predictable risks in comparison with foreseeable benefits to the subject or to others.” How can we inform them of the predictable risks when the short and long term effects of egg harvesting have never been studied? How many times a year can young women do this? What are the risks to their future fertility and reproductive health? What are the health implications and is she really properly and fully informed-so that she can freely participate in the choices that directly and profoundly affect her body? What exactly are the benefits to these young healthy women who are not sick but may be made sick by this procedure?
Without eggs this research does not move forward. There is no egg fairy. Dr. Hwang in South Korea used over 2000 and got nowhere. Without answers to the questions about the health and safety of these young women how could we in good conscience move forward?
Please, if you have personal stories, I’d like to hear from you. If you would like to share a copy of your informed consent document, we are gathering the facts.
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