On the German debate on human embryonic stem cell research

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 29 (5):603 – 621 (2004)
Abstract
Germany since 1990 has one of the strictest human embryo protection laws, yet according to the Stem Cell Act of 2002 allows, under strict conditions, the import and use of human embryonic stem cells (hESC) for high priority research goals. The author tries to show how this is taken to be coherent by the parliamentary majority (though not necessarily by the general public) in Germany. In doing so, he firstly looks into the chronicle of the debate in Germany showing its different stages since 1999, then dwells upon the relation between the law and the role of ethics in this issue, and thirdly presents the two fundamentally different positions of the German debate, that is, that the human embryo created for IVF purposes is a human being and stands from its very beginnings under the constitutional principles of respect for, and protection of, human life versus the position that before being implanted the human embryo may become a human being and therefore belongs to the human species only potentially, so that its right to life protection may be assessable over against other high priority goals, such as research aiming at possible help for patients with life-endangering diseases. In spite of the Stem Cell Act of 2002, the debate of the German general public goes on, especially due to the recent EU 6th Research Framework Program which plans to also fund hESC research
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