David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 36 (5):516-528 (2011)
Is it morally acceptable to use human embryos left over from fertility treatments in research that would harm or destroy them? Many answer "no" to this question on the grounds that all human beings, including human embryos, have a basic moral status that forbids such use. There are some, though, who accept this claim about the basic moral status of human embryos but who believe nevertheless that frozen human embryos which were generated for fertility treatments but which are no longer wanted for that project are a morally acceptable source of human embryonic stem cells and are acceptable subjects of other forms of research that would destroy them in course. The reasoning offered in defense of this position typically employs the claim that since these embryos are going to be discarded anyway, their possibly fruitful use by researchers is a preferable alternative and one that is not inconsistent with their basic moral status. Howard Curzer has offered a well-developed argument of this sort, defending the use of these embryos in the ways mentioned while at the same time allowing for their equal basic moral status. This article challenges Curzer’s case and offers reasons to reject the moral acceptability of using even these to-be-discarded embryos as research material
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