On transplanting human fetal tissue: Presumptive duties and the task of casuistry

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 14 (6):617-640 (1989)
The procurement of fetal tissue for transplantation may promise great benefit to those suffering from various pathologies, e.g., neural disorders, diabetes, renal problems, and radiation sickness. However, debates about the use of fetal tissue have proceeded without much attention to ethical theory and application. Two broad moral questions are addressed here, the first formal, the second substantive: Is there a framework from other moral paradigms to assist in ethical debates about the transplantation of fetal tissue? Does the use of fetal tissue entail cooperation in abortion? To answer these questions I develop a theoretical framework by combining the paradigm of just-war reasoning with canons governing the use of cadaverous tissue. The kinds of safeguards provided by this paradigm allow fetal tissue to be procured without the taint of association with abortion. Central to solving the problem of cooperation is the distinction between intending and foreseeing a moral misdeed. Fetal researchers may foresee fetal death in elective abortions without intending such deaths to occur. Thus, even those who object unequivocally to elective abortion may condone the procurement of fetal tissue, if sufficient reason exists. Keywords: fetal tissue, casuistry, prima facie duties, just-war tenets, complicity CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
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DOI 10.1093/jmp/14.6.617
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