Ethics and policy in embryonic stem cell research

Kennedy Inst Ethics J. 1999 Jun;9(2):109-36. doi: 10.1353/ken.1999.0013.


Embryonic stem cells, which have the potential to save many lives, must be recovered from aborted fetuses or live embyros. Although tissue from aborted fetuses can be used without moral complicity in the underlying abortion, obtaining stem cells from embryos necessarily kills them, thus raising difficult questions about the use of embryonic human material to save others. This article draws on previous controversies over embryo research and distinctions between intrinsic and symbolic moral status to analyze these issues. It argues that stem cell research with spare embryos produced during infertility treatment, or even embryos created specifically for research or therapeutic purposes, is ethically acceptable and should receive federal funding.

MeSH terms

  • Aborted Fetus
  • Advisory Committees
  • Beginning of Human Life
  • Commodification
  • Complicity*
  • Economics
  • Embryo Disposition
  • Embryo Research*
  • Embryo, Mammalian*
  • Ethical Theory
  • Ethics*
  • Federal Government
  • Fertilization in Vitro
  • Fetal Tissue Transplantation
  • Fetus
  • Financial Support
  • Financing, Government*
  • Government
  • Government Regulation
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Internationality
  • Jurisprudence
  • Life
  • Moral Obligations
  • Morals*
  • Oocyte Donation
  • Private Sector
  • Public Policy*
  • Research Embryo Creation*
  • Research*
  • Risk
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Control, Formal
  • Social Responsibility
  • Stem Cells*
  • Tissue Donors
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Value of Life
  • Wedge Argument