The embryonic stem cell lottery and the cannibalization of human beings

Bioethics. 2002 Nov;16(6):508-29. doi: 10.1111/1467-8519.00308.


One objection to embryonic stem (ES) research is that it 'cannibalizes' human beings, that is, kills some human beings to benefit others. I grant for argument's sake that the embryo is a person. Nonetheless, killing it may be justified. I show this through the Embryonic Stem Cell Lottery. Whether killing a person is justified depends on: (1) whether innocent people at risk of being killed for ES cell research also stand to benefit from the research and (2) whether their overall chances of living are higher in a world in which killing and ES cell research is conducted. I call this kind of killing 'risk reductive.'

MeSH terms

  • Cannibalism
  • Cloning, Organism / ethics
  • Craniotomy
  • Embryo Research / ethics*
  • Embryo, Mammalian* / cytology
  • Ethical Analysis*
  • Female
  • Fetus / surgery
  • Homicide / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Personhood*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Reduction, Multifetal
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted
  • Research Embryo Creation / ethics*
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Social Justice
  • Stem Cells* / cytology
  • Twins, Conjoined / surgery
  • Value of Life