Attitudes Towards the Donation of Human Embryos for Stem Cell Research Among Chinese IVF Patients and Students

J Bioeth Inq. 2018 Sep;15(3):441-457. doi: 10.1007/s11673-018-9862-9. Epub 2018 Jul 2.


Bioethical debates on the use of human embryos and oocytes for stem cell research have often been criticized for the lack of empirical insights into the perceptions and experiences of the women and couples who are asked to donate these tissues in the IVF clinic. Empirical studies that have investigated the attitudes of IVF patients and citizens on the (potential) donation of their embryos and oocytes have been scarce and have focused predominantly on the situation in Europe and Australia. This article examines the viewpoints on the donation of embryos for stem cell research among IVF patients and students in China. Research into the perceptions of patients is based on in-depth interviews with IVF patients and IVF clinicians. Research into the attitudes of students is based on a quantitative survey study (n=427). The empirical findings in this paper indicate that perceptions of the donation of human embryos for stem cell research in China are far more diverse and complex than has commonly been suggested. Claims that ethical concerns regarding the donation and use of embryos and oocytes for stem cell research are typical for Western societies but absent in China cannot be upheld. The article shows that research into the situated perceptions and cultural specificities of human tissue donation can play a crucial role in the deconstruction of politicized bioethical argumentation and the (often ill-informed) assumptions about "others" that underlie socio-ethical debates on the moral dilemmas of technology developments in the life sciences.

Keywords: China; Embryo donation; IVF stem cell interface; hESCR, human germ line editing.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • China
  • Culture
  • Embryo Research / ethics*
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro / ethics*
  • Fertilization in Vitro / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morals
  • Oocytes
  • Stem Cell Research / ethics*
  • Students*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tissue Donors*
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement*