Ethical issues in neurografting of human embryonic cells

Theor Med Bioeth. 1999 Sep;20(5):461-75. doi: 10.1023/a:1009985223158.


During the last decade neurotransplantation has developed into a technique with the possible potential to repair damaged or degenerating human brain. Effective neurotransplantation has so far been based on the use of fetal brain tissue derived from aborted embryos or fetuses. The ethical issues related to this new therapeutic approach therefore not only concern the possible adverse side effects for a neural graft-receiving patient, but also the relationship between the requirements for fetal tissue and the decision-making process for induced abortion. Although for decades human embryos and fetuses have been the subject of biomedical studies, and, in principle, their use has therefore not been seen as ethically objectionable, the above points made it necessary to reconsider the moral issues. The present paper points out several of these issues, both from the donor and acceptor (patient) point of view. The conclusion is that under a series of restrictions intended to prevent the use of grafts from encouraging induced abortions and to maintain high standards of respect for life and human dignity, neurotransplantation using embryonic or fetal brain tissue parts cannot be rejected on moral grounds.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aborted Fetus*
  • Abortion, Legal*
  • Brain Diseases / therapy*
  • Brain Tissue Transplantation / standards*
  • Directed Tissue Donation
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Fetal Tissue Transplantation / standards*
  • Humans
  • Patient Advocacy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnant Women
  • Risk Assessment
  • Therapeutic Human Experimentation
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement