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Science: Survey Shows Half of Infertility Patients Willing to Donate Unused Embryos
Roughly half of infertility patients in a new survey said they were somewhat or very likely to donate their unused embryos for medical research rather then have them destroyed or donated to another infertile couple.
The survey, discussed in a Policy Forum to be published Thursday online by the journal Science at its Science Express website, revealed that while just under 50 percent of patients would be willing to donate for "research purposes," 60 percent would be very or somewhat likely to donate for "research in which stem cells are derived."
In addition, 62 percent of surveyed patients indicated that they would be willing to donate embryos "for research to understand or develop treatment for human disease or injury," and 61 percent for "research to improve infertility treatment."
The authors estimate that "roughly 2000 to 3000 viable stem cell lines, ~ 100 times the number of lines currently available for federal funding," would become available with a new stem cell research plan.
"The study shows that contrary to what some people think, the limiting factor to increasing stem cell lines is not an unwillingness to donate from infertility patients," said Anne Drapkin Lyerly, lead author and an associate professor at the Duke University Medical Center. "It is now in another area of money and politics."
Lyerly, along with co-author Ruth R. Faden, a professor of biomedical ethics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, surveyed over 2000 infertility patients receiving treatment with over 1200 patient responses.
The article was released following a 20 June veto by President George W. Bush of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, a measure that would have eased restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research.
According to the authors, the only other national estimate of this kind, which predicted that a smaller number of embryos would be available, was limited by the fact that fertility clinics, rather than patients themselves, were surveyed.
Kathy Wren and Benjamin Somers
20 June 2007