Oöcyte markets: global tissue economies and women’s reproductive work in embryonic stem cell research

05 September 2006

Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT) research, otherwise known as therapeutic cloning, requires large numbers of research oöcytes, placing pressure on an already limited supply. In the UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore and most of Western Europe, oöcytes are made available through modestly reimbursed donation, and, due to the onerous nature of donation, the existing demand for reproductive oöcytes far outstrips availability. SCNT research will place this system under even greater pressure. This paper investigates the growth in a global market for oöcytes, where transnational IVF clinics broker sales between generally poor, female vendors and wealthy purchasers, beyond the borders of national regulation, and with little in the way of clinical or bioethical scrutiny. It considers the possible impact that SCNT research will have on this global market, and suggests some ways to improve the protection, security and power of vendors.