[EDITORIALS]More scrutiny, more ethics

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[EDITORIALS]More scrutiny, more ethics

Hwang Woo-suk, a professor at Seoul National University who leads the country’s stem-cell research, held a press conference yesterday in which he acknowledged all suspicions surrounding the use of human ova in his research and apologized to the people. He acknowledged that he had heard after using eggs for research that two women from his own staff had donated eggs for his work, and said he was also aware that purchased human ova had been used for the research. Regarding his prior explanations that turned out to be lies, he said that the female researchers who donated the human ova requested privacy and that he sought to protect their privacy. Dr. Hwang said that he would now focus only on his research and that he would resign from all his official posts, including as head of the World Stem Cell Hub, a state-funded center.
Although late, it’s fortunate that Dr. Hwang has told the truth, acknowledged his faults and apologized. A dent might have been put into his stellar research achievements and his stem cell research may have suffered a setback. Nevertheless, repeating lies and only confessing and acknowledging his faults at a stage when the truth was almost out is frustrating to us. Trust in the research team has been damaged, and the international hub for stem cell research has been as well.
Stem cell research is not only important in light of its medical aspects, its use in curing now-incurable diseases, but also in the area of value added ― the business that the research can lead to. It’s research that we can’t give up on. Despite the ova stir, the stem cell research has to continue without interruption. Most members of our society are reflecting on this incident and they are hoping that Dr. Hwang and his research team will continue their research. That is why Korean women have volunteered to donate ova.
The problem is that stem cell research is so attractive that everyone is exposed to greed. The ova incident is only a small quarrel if one thinks about the long term. The Institutional Review Board of Seoul National University’s veterinary college said that there were no violations of laws and ethical rules in the process of providing the ova. Nevertheless, stem cell research has one day to face the ethical hurdle of cloning human beings. Under such circumstances, that breach of trust in the research team led by Dr. Hwang is a serious problem. Monitoring of the team, internally and from abroad, will increase and the team will just have to accept it. Research that is directly linked to human life and dignity requires strict ethics.
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