Washington International Law Journal


Mukta Jhalani


Human embryonic stem cells have the potential to treat many physical and neurological disorders due to their unique ability to transform into any type of human cell. The process of deriving stem cells from human embryos, however, raises important ethical and regulatory issues. Embryonic stem cell research requires a steady source of human eggs to create embryos that are destroyed during stem cell extraction. International declarations and guidelines protect the two most vulnerable participants of embryonic stem cell research: women who donate eggs for research purposes and human embryos that are destroyed in the research. In 2005, South Korea passed the Bioethics and Biosafety Act to regulate biotechnology research. In its current form, the Bioethics and Biosafety Act fails to adequately protect egg donors and human embryos. The Bioethics and Biosafety Act does not have adequate safeguards to protect egg donors, such as a requirement of voluntary consent and a requirement that egg donors understand the research and its potential risks. The Institutional Review Boards established by the Bioethics and Biosafety Act are not sufficiently removed from the research institution to guarantee that egg donors are not exploited. Additionally, this legislation fails to appropriately regulate the use of human embryos in scientific research as required by international guidelines. The Bioethics and Biosafety Act should include more detailed provisions dealing with the adequacy and quality of informed consent that is obtained from egg donors. Furthermore, Korea should amend its law to limit the use of human embryos in stem cell research so that the embryos are not unnecessarily destroyed.

First Page