Orphaned at conception: the uncanny offspring of embryos

Bioethics. 2012 May;26(4):173-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2010.01848.x. Epub 2010 Oct 6.


A number of advances in assisted reproduction have been greeted by the accusation that they would produce children 'without parents'. In this paper I will argue that while to date these accusations have been false, there is a limited but important sense in which they would be true of children born of a reproductive technology that is now on the horizon. If our genetic parents are those individuals from whom we have inherited 50% of our genes, then, unlike in any other reproductive scenario, children who were conceived from gametes derived from stem cell lines derived from discarded IVF embryos would have no genetic parents! This paper defends this claim and investigates its ethical implications. I argue that there are reasons to think that the creation of such embryos might be morally superior to the existing alternatives in an important set of circumstances.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Child, Orphaned*
  • Cloning, Organism / ethics
  • Embryonic Stem Cells*
  • Fertilization in Vitro / ethics
  • Germ Cells*
  • Humans
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted / ethics*