A provision included in a bill... (SB 2039) approved by the Massachusetts Legislature earlier this year supporting human embryonic stem cell research in the state would require an advisory council to examine acceptable ways to dispose of abandoned embryos, the Boston Globe reports. If the measure -- which was sent back to the state Legislature last week by Gov. Mitt Romney (R) with recommended revisions -- is approved as written, Massachusetts would become the first state to address the "legal ambiguities" of unused embryos that couples no longer wish to pay to store, according to the Globe (Krasner, Boston Globe, 5/18). The bill would establish a 15-member biomedical research advisory council that would hold public meetings, advise legislators on the research in an annual report and investigate whether women should be compensated for donating their eggs. The measure also would eliminate the requirement that scientists engaged in stem cell research obtain approval from the local district attorney and instead give the state Department of Public Health some regulatory controls over the research. In addition, the bill would allow human cloning for research purposes but ban human cloning for the purpose of reproduction. Romney earlier had said that he might veto the bill but instead decided to send it back to the Legislature with four proposed amendments (Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report, 5/13). However, the state House and Senate are expected to reject Romney's proposed changes this week, and the measure likely would receive enough votes to override a veto, according to the Globe.

Embryo Question
The issue of what to do with abandoned embryos is "a consequence of the increasing popularity and expanding capabilities of assisted reproductive technology," the Globe reports. Some reproductive law specialists say that legal action could not be taken against a facility if it makes an effort to obtain consent to destroy or donate embryos that clients are no longer paying to store. However, Daniel Winslow -- an attorney with the law firm Duane Morris, which represents the Brookline, Ma., embryonic storage facility New England Cryogenic Center -- said abandoned embryos currently "are trapped in a morass where the law provides no answers" (Boston Globe, 5/18).

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