Is it permissible to use a human embryo in stem cell research, or in general as a means for benefit of others? Acknowledging each embryo as an object of moral concern, Louis M.Guenin argues that it is morally permissible to decline intrauterine transfer of an embryo formed outside the body, and that from this permission and the duty of beneficence, there follows a consensus justification for using donated embryos in service of humanitarian ends. He then proceeds to (...) show how this justification commands assent even within moral and religious views commonly thought to oppose embryo use. Beneath his moral reasoning lies a carefully constructed metaphysical foundation incorporating accounts of the ontology of development, embryos, and species. He also incisively discusses nonreprocloning, reprocloning, ectogenesis, and related scientific frontiers. This compelling philosophical study will interest all concerned to understand virtue and obligation in the relief of suffering. (shrink)
Iran is the only Muslim country that has legislation on embryo donation, adopted in 2003. With an estimated 10–15% of couples in the country that are infertile, there are not any legal or religious barriers that prohibit an infertile couple from taking advantage of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs).Although all forms of ARTs available in Iran have been legitimized by religious authorities, there is a lack of legislation in all ARTs except embryo donation. By highlighting ethical issues in (...) class='Hi'>embryo donation, the paper presents a critical review of the Act of Embryo Donation in Iran. The paper argues that the Act does not provide enough safeguards for the future child and assurance for the safety of the donated embryos. It also does not restrict embryo donation to surplus embryos from infertile couples and is silent about the number of embryos that could be donated by each couple as well as the number of recipients for donated embryos by a couple.The Act is also silent about the issues of genetic linkage (nasab) and heritage which are challenging issues, especially in a conservative Islamic society. As a result, the future child may not inherit from their birth parents, as it is not required by the Act, or from the genetically related parents under the anonymity policy. Finally there is no standard national protocol or guidelines to evaluate the safety of the donated embryos.The paper concludes that despite its benefits, the Act lacks clarity, and it is subject to misunderstanding and confusion. (shrink)
I defend the argument that if embryo loss in stem cell research is morally problematic, then embryo loss in in vivo conception is similarly morally problematic. According to a recent challenge to this argument, we can distinguish between in vivo embryo loss and the in vitro embryo loss of stem cell research by appealing to the Doctrine of Double Effect. I argue that this challenge fails to show that in vivo embryo loss is a mere (...) unintended side-effect while in vitro embryo loss is an intended means and that, even if we refine the challenge by appealing to Michael Bratman’s three roles of intention, the distinction is still unwarranted. (shrink)
This paper re-examines some well-known and commonly accepted arguments for the non-individuality of the embryo, due mainly to the work of John Harris. The first concerns the alleged non-differentiation of the embryoblast from the trophoblast. The second concerns monozygotic twinning and the relevance of the primitive streak. The third concerns the totipotency of the cells of the early embryo. I argue that on a proper analysis of both the empirical facts of embryological development, and the metaphysical importance or (...) otherwise of those facts, all three arguments are found wanting. None of them establishes that the embryo is not an individual human being from the moment of conception. (shrink)
A higher order potential analysis of moral status clarifies the issues that divide Human Being Theorists who oppose embryo research from Person Theorists who favor embryo research. Higher order potential personhood is transitive if it is active, identity preserving and morally relevant. If the transition from the Second Order Potential of the embryo to the First Order Potential of an infant is transitive, opponents of embryo research make a powerful case for the moral status of the (...)embryo. If it is intransitive, then the Person Theorist can draw lines between levels of moral status that permit embryo research to proceed. (shrink)
The author, a member of the U.S.President's Council on Bioethics, discussesethical issues raised by human cloning, whetherfor purposes of bringing babies to birth or forresearch purposes. He first argues that everycloned human embryo is a new, distinct, andenduring organism, belonging to the speciesHomo sapiens, and directing its owndevelopment toward maturity. He then distinguishesbetween two types of capacities belonging toindividual organisms belonging to this species,an immediately exerciseable capacity and abasic natural capacity that develops over time. He argues that it is (...) the second type ofcapacity that is the ground for full moralrespect, and that this capacity (and itsconcomitant degree of respect) belongs tocloned human embryos no less than to adulthuman beings. He then considers and rejectscounter-arguments to his position, includingthe suggestion that the capacity of embryos isequivalent to the capacity of somatic cells,that full human rights are afforded only tohuman organisms with functioning brains, thatthe possibility of twinning diminishes themoral status of embryos, that the fact thatpeople do not typically mourn the loss of earlyembryos implies that they have a diminishedmoral status, that the fact that earlyspontaneous abortions occur frequentlydiminishes the moral status of embryos, andthat his arguments depend upon a concept ofensoulment. He concludes that if the moralstatus of cloned human embryos is equivalent tothat of adults, then public policy should bebased upon this assumption. (shrink)
This overview of 10 years of stem cell controversy reviews the moral conflict that has made ESCs so controversial and how this conflict plays itself out in the legal realm, focusing on the constitutional status of efforts to ban ESC research or ESC-derived therapies. It provides a history of the federal funding debate from the Carter to the Obama administrations, and the importance of the Raab memo in authorizing federal funding for research with privately derived ESCs despite the Dickey-Wicker ban (...) on federal funding of embryo research. It also reviews the role that scientists themselves have played in developing regulations for ESC research, the emergence of ESCROs as special review bodies for ESC research, and the thorough consent requirements for donation of IVF embryos to ESC research. With research now transitioning from the lab to the clinic, the article reviews the challenges of ensuring safety and consent in translational research. It concludes with a call for respecting those persons who have to using or working with ESC products and an account of how obtaining stem cells from a person's own cells will alleviate some but not all of the controversy surrounding ESC research. (shrink)
Many people have moral qualms about embryo research, feeling that embryos must deserve some kind of protection, if not so much as is afforded to persons. This paper will show that these qualms serve to camouflage motives that are really prudential, at the cost of also obscuring the real ethical issues at play in the debate concerning embryo research and therapeutic cloning. This in turn leads to fallacious use of the Actions/Omissions Distinction and ultimately neglects the duties that (...) we have towards future persons. (shrink)
abstract This paper re-examines some well-known and commonly accepted arguments for the non-individuality of the embryo, due mainly to the work of John Harris. The first concerns the alleged non-differentiation of the embryoblast from the trophoblast. The second concerns monozygotic twinning and the relevance of the primitive streak. The third concerns the totipotency of the cells of the early embryo. I argue that on a proper analysis of both the empirical facts of embryological development, and the metaphysical importance (...) or otherwise of those facts, all three arguments are found wanting. None of them establishes that the embryo is not an individual human being from the moment of conception. (shrink)
My interlocutor is anyone who denies peisonhood to the embryo on the grounds that a human person can exist only in conscious activity and that in the absence of consciousness a person cannot exist at all. I probe personal consciousness to the point at which the distinction between the being and the consciousness of the human person appears, and argue on the basis of this distinction that the being of a person can exist in the absence of any consciousness. (...) I proceed to argue that it is not only entirely possible for the embryo to be a human person, but that, given the embodied peisonhood of us human beings, this is the only reasonable assumption which we can make. Keywords: human embryo, personhood, being, consciousness, embodiment CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
In Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (Doubleday, 2008), Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen argue that human embryo-destructive experimentation is morally wrong and should not be supported with state funds. I argue that their arguments fail.
It is often claimed that from the moment of conception embryos have the same moral status as adult humans. This claim plays a central role in many arguments against abortion, in vitro fertilization, and stem cell research. In what follows, I show that this claim leads directly to an unexpected and unwelcome conclusion: that natural embryo loss is one of the greatest problems of our time and that we must do almost everything in our power to prevent it. I (...) examine the responses available to those who hold that embryos have full moral status and conclude that they cannot avoid the force of this argument without giving up this key claim. (shrink)
This article is a response to McLeod and Baylis (2007) who speculate on the dangers of requesting fresh ‘spare’ embryos from IVF patients for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, particularly when those embryos are good enough to be transferred back to the woman. They argue that these embryos should be frozen instead. We explore what is meant by ‘spare’ embryos. We then provide empirical evidence, from a study of embryo donation and of embryo donors' views, to substantiate (...) some of their speculations about the problems associated with requesting fresh embryos. However, we also question whether such problems are resolved by embryo freezing, since further empirical evidence suggests that this raises other social and ethical problems for patients. There is little evidence that the request for embryos for research, in itself, causes patients distress. We suggest, however, that no requests for fresh embryos should be made in the first cycle of IVF treatment. Deferring the request to a later cycle ensures that potential donors are better informed (by experience and reflection) about the possible destinations of their embryos and about the definition of ‘spare embryos’. Both this article, and that by McLeod and Baylis, emphasize the need to consider the views and experiences of embryo donors when evaluating the ethics of embryo donation for hESC research. (shrink)
In the debate regarding the moral status of human embryos, the Embryo Rescue Case has been used to suggest that embryos are not rightholders. This case is premised on the idea that in a situation where one has a choice between saving some number of embryos or a child, it seems wrong to save the embryos and not the child. If so, it seems that embryos cannot be rightholders. In this paper, I argue that the Embryo Rescue Case (...) does not independently show that embryos are not rightholders. (shrink)
This article is the first in a two-part review of policy design for human embryo research in Canada. In this article we explain how this area of research is circumscribed by law promulgated by the federal Parliament (the Assisted Human Reproduction Act ) and by guidelines issued by the Tri-Agencies (the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans and Updated Guidelines for Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Research ). In so doing, we provide the first comprehensive account of (...) the rules currently governing human embryo research in Canada. In this article we also provide a chronological description of relevant policy initiatives and outcomes related to these policy instruments over the past 20 years, with particular attention to public involvement in policy design. This sets the stage for the second article (scheduled to appear in vol. 6 issue 3) in which we critically analyse the history of policy design for human embryo research in Canada, applying a typology of modes of public consultation developed by Eric Montpetit. Our goal is to carefully explain the various episodes of policy development and their corresponding outcomes, in order to more effectively address emerging questions about the legitimacy of future policy initiatives for human embryo research in Canada. (shrink)
For more than 30 years, beginning with the Reagan administration's refusal to support and provide oversight for embryo research, and continuing to the present in congressionally imposed limits on funding for such research, progress in infertility medicine and the development of stem cell therapies has been seriously delayed by a series of political interventions. In almost all cases, these interventions result from a view of the moral status of human embryo premised largely on religious assumptions. Although some believe (...) that these interventions are valid expressions of religious values in the public sector, it is argued here that they, in fact, contradict Rawls's conception of public reasoning. Both the prohibition of research involving the human embryo as well as bans on federal funding for embryo-related research place the particular religious views of some citizens above the pressing health needs of almost all, and thus violate the ideal of civility implicit in the Rawlsian standard. (shrink)
One frequent argument in the debate over federal funding of human embryo research is the slippery slope argument. Slope arguments can be of several types: either logical, empirical, or full (a combination of logical and empirical slope arguments, with an additional psychological premise). A full slope argument against human embryo research suggests that funding embryo reseach could undermine current protections for human subjects research, erode respect for persons with disabilities, and encourage eugenics practices. While the Panel commissioned (...) by the National Institutes of Health to issue funding guidelines regarding human embryo research acknowledges some slippery slope concerns, the Panel's final report fails to address such concerns in any depth. Given this failure seriously to address these valid concerns, federal funding of embryo research should not proceed at this time. Keywords: embryo, human, slippery slope CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Human embryonic stem cell research has generated considerable discussion and debate in bioethics. Bioethical discourse tends to focus on the moral status of the embryo as the central issue, however, and it is unclear how much this reflects broader community values and beliefs related to stem cell research. This paper presents the results of a study which aims to identify and classify the issues and arguments that have arisen in public discourse associated with one prominent policy episode (...) in the United States: the 2004 Californian Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative (also known as Proposition 71). The findings show that public discourse about Proposition 71 is characterised by a broader range of issues than those usually addressed in scholarly publications and public policy documents. While attention to the moral status of the embryo is an important issue in stem cell research, making it the main focus of public discourse has a polarising effect. This also limits opportunities to identify shared values, understand how political alliances are forged, and develop social consensus. Implications for future research and policy are discussed. (shrink)
In bioethics as in the sciences, enormous discussions often concern the very small. Central to public debate over emerging reproductive and regenerative biotechnologies is the question of the moral status of the human embryo. Because news media have played a prominent role in framing the vocabulary of the debate, this study surveyed the use of language reporting on human embryo research in news articles spanning a two-year period. Terminology that devalued moral status - for example, the descriptors things, (...) property, tissue, or experimental material - was found to outnumber fivefold those that affirmed any degree of moral status above that of inanimate cellular matter; for example, living, human life, or human being. A quarter of the articles failed to note that the embryos under discussion were human. These findings confirm that even among scientific and philosophical experts a diversity of opinion exists on society's moral obligations to nascent human life. The skewed linguistic distribution also indicates a distinct bias. Concerned readers should take notice when any category of humanity becomes subject to prejudicial and disparaging language and the value of vulnerable human life is trivialized alongside sensational assertions of anticipated medical cures. The responsibility for holding the media to a higher standard of truth and fairness falls to us all. (shrink)
This article notes differences in legislation in Germany and Great Britain regarding human embryo research and looks for an explanation in their divergent intellectual traditions. Whereas the German Stem Cell Act invokes an anthropological concept of human dignity to ground its ban on using embryos for research, there is no definition of what it means to be human in either the British Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act or in the advisory Warnock-Report. After studying the differences and providing some philosophical (...) background, the essay distinguishes two notions that are significant for understanding human dignity. It then proposes from a theological point of view a basic understanding within a relational anthropology, and comes to the conclusion that because of continuity in development and their relational constitution, humans embryos should be accepted as human from the moment of conception. (shrink)
This article is the second in a two-part review of policy design for human embryo research in Canada. In the first article in 6(1) of the JBI , we explain how this area of research is circumscribed by law promulgated by the federal Parliament and by guidelines adopted by the Tri-Agencies, and we provide a chronological description of relevant policy initiatives and outcomes related to these two policy instruments, with particular attention to the repeated efforts at public consultation. This (...) second article analyses the history of policy design for human embryo research in Canada, applying a typology of modes of public consultation developed by Eric Montpetit to better understand the various episodes of policy design and their corresponding outcomes. On this basis, we suggest that the degree to which the views of Canadian residents and citizens on human embryo research have been solicited as part of the policy-making process has diminished significantly over time. We also suggest that this diminished participation is likely to continue given the presence of powerful interest groups and policy communities “speaking for” Canadians. This raises interesting questions about the legitimacy of future policy initiatives for human embryo research in Canada. (shrink)
Many of the commentaries have made similar points regarding the nature of full moral status, so I shall begin by addressing these together. They argue that my representation of the Claim is stronger than many proponents of full moral status would accept (Ord 2008). Robert Card (2008) says that I assume that it is equally bad to lose human life at all stages. Russell DiSilvestro (2008) says that I assume a flawed principle that he calls (M). Marianne Burda (2008) says (...) that I assume that life must be saved or prolonged at all costs. Christopher Dodsworth and colleagues (2008) say that I assume embryos have as much to lose as adults. I assume none of these things. The argument I put forward works just as well for more subdued claims about the moral status of the embryo. All that is required is to find the badness of embryo death to be at least roughly comparable to the badness of adult death, so that when a proponent of full moral status hears that 30 times more of our moral equals die of spontaneous abortion than die of cancer, their views would require urgent action if such action is possible. The comparison between the badness of adult death and of fetal or embryonic death is made routinely in the literature in support of restrictions upon abortion, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and stem cell research, and it appears to be a mainstream view worthy of serious attention.1 If a large proportion of those who claim that the embryo has full moral status are none-the-less quite sure that each embryo death is much less bad than an adult death, then they owe it to their readers to be more clear about this. Let us now consider the other points of each commentary in turn. (shrink)
While many European countries are entering unknown legal terrain where the embryo in vitro is concerned, France can already look back on a long tradition of public discussion and legal codification of ways of dealing with in vitro embryos. In its comprehensive law of 1994, France had still rejected embryo research; however, due to the promising perspectives of stem cell research, the new law now pending implies a clear liberalization of the 1994 provisions. Both the French lawmakers and (...) the National Ethics Commission have repeatedly argued that possible utilization of embryos for research purposes may seem legitimate from the moment that there is no more "parental project." De facto, this concept implies that an embryo can be transformed into an object from the moment that the parents cease to desire it and that the value of protection is solely dependent on the will of third persons. At the same time, France is still speaking of guaranteeing respect for the "dignity of the embryo," which would mean that an embryo must not be reduced to a thing and treated for purposes which are not his own. Therefore, the French solution is not a consistent and honest solution, and in its new legal provisions, France has involved herself in manifold contradictions. France has rejected the conception of pre-embryo, but is de facto following Britain's model without making it explicit. (shrink)
Ethical conflicts have always been connected with new techniques of reproductive medicine such as in-vitro fertilization. The fundamental question is: When does human life begin and from which stage of development should the embryo be protected? This question cannot be solved by scientific findings only. In prenatal ontogenesis there is no moment during the development from the fertilized oocyte to a human being which could be recognized as an orientation point for all ethical problems connected with the question of (...) the right to dispose of prenatal life (interruption of pregnancy, research on embryos). The protection of an individual human life must be valid for all in the same manner and from the very beginning on. It must not depend on value judgments or on stages of development, so-called grades of humanity, because these would then become selection criteria. Procreated life must have the right to be born. These were the essential ethical arguments which led to the German Embryo Protection Law. (shrink)
: Today's personable, sanitized images of human embryos and fetuses require an audience that is literally and metaphorically distanced from dead specimens. Yet scientists must handle dead specimens to produce embryological knowledge, which only then can be transformed into beautiful photographs and talking fetuses. I begin with an account of Gertrude Stein's experience making a model of a fetal brain. Her tactile encounter is contrasted to the avant-garde artistic tradition that later came to dominate embryo imagery. This essay shows (...) the embryo visualizations portrayed in a contemporary coffee-table book about gestational development to be a remarkable political achievement predicated, in part, on keeping hidden the unsavory details of anatomical technique that transform dead specimens into icons of life. (shrink)
Public attention on embryo research has never been greater. Modern reproductive medicine technology and the use of embryos to generate stem cells ensure that this will continue to be a topic of debate and research across many disciplines. This multidisciplinary book explores the concept of a 'healthy' embryo, its implications on the health of children and adults, and how perceptions of what constitutes child and adult health influence the concept of embryo 'health'. The concept of human (...) class='Hi'>embryo health is considered from preconception to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to recent foetal surgical approaches. Burgeoning capacities in both genetic and reproductive science and their clinical implications have catalysed the necessity to explore the concept of a 'healthy' embryo. The authors are from five countries and 13 disciplines in the social sciences, humanities, biological sciences and medicine, ensuring that the book has a broad coverage and approach. (shrink)
Viktor Hamburger was a developmental biologist interested in the ontogenesis of the vertebrate nervous system. A student of Hans Spemann at Freiburg in the 1920s, Hamburger picked up a holistic view of the embryo that precluded him from treating it in a reductionist way; at the same time, he was committed to a materialist and analytical approach that eschewed any form of vitalism or metaphysics. This paper explores how Hamburger walked this thin line between mechanistic reductionism and metaphysical vitalism (...) in light of his work on the factors influencing growth of neurons into limb buds, and the discovery of nerve growth factor, work carried out with Rita Levi-Montalcini and Stanley Cohen. (shrink)
There is an apparent gap between public policy on embryo research in the United Kingdom and its ostensible justification. The rationale is respect for the “special status” of the embryo, but the policy actively promotes research in which embryos are destroyed. Richard Harries argues that this is consistent because, the “special status” of the human embryo is less than the absolute status of persons. However, this intermediate moral status does no evident work in decisions relating to the (...) human embryo. Rather, public policy seems to be based on a different account of “special status”: that developed by Mary Warnock. According to this, the embryo has no inherent status and the language of “special status” serves rather to accommodate the feelings of those who object to embryo research. This “emotivist” account is highly problematic, not so much for its attitude to the embryo as for its subversion of public moral reasoning. (shrink)
McGovern, Kevin This article explores the report of the 2010 independent review committee into Australia's cloning and embryo research laws. Its author, the Director of the Centre, was one of the five members of this committee.
This paper seeks to explain why the debate over the personhood of the embryo goes nowhere and is more likely to generate confusion than conviction. The paper presents two arguments. The first aims to establish that the question of the personhood of the embryo cannot be resolved by turning to science, althoughthe debate about the embryo has largely been a debate about the scientific facts. It is claimed that the rough facts on which the parties to the (...) debate agree admit ofmultiple more refined accounts, among which science is powerless to adjudicate. So what happens is that the arguments go round and round, neither party convincing the other, both infuriating each another. The second argument concerns the implications of this claim for the many controversies involving the embryo. Here the question is how people who do not know what to make of the embryo might go about deciding how it should be treated. (shrink)
This paper reports on recent regulations and guidelines in the Federal Republic of Germany bearing on perinatal medical ethics, embryo research and trophoblast biopsy. Some of the regulations are defensive responses to new moral opportunities. In contrast, this paper calls for a more aggressive moral cost-benefit assessment of high technology medicine, which would include large-scale research on embryos prior to the fiftieth day post-menstruation. Keywords: abortion, embryo research, moral triage, prenatal diagnosis, withholding treatment CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
When it comes to the matter of human embryo research law plays a crucial role in its development by helping to set the boundaries of what may be done, the sanctions for acting outside those boundaries and the rights and responsibilities of key parties. Nevertheless, the philosophical challenges raised by human embryo research, even with the best will of all concerned, may prove too great for satisfactory resolution through the legal process. Taking as its focus the position of (...) Ireland, this paper explores the distinctive constitutional approach taken on this issue and addresses the difficulty of translating sound philosophy into judicial decrees and the difficulty of establishing expert commissions to make law reform proposals on matters of profound normative controversy. It concludes that the Irish experience does have useful lessons for those in other countries who are concerned with the legal approach to research on human embryos and points to the desirability of a diversity of normative positions in order to enrich the quality of the analysis so as to encourage more informed debate in society. (shrink)
In 2006 the Government issued a White Paper in which it proposed a ban on human-animal embryo research pending greater clarity on its potential. The Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology initiated an Inquiry and concluded that such research was necessary and should be permitted immediately. The Government agreed and this is reflected in revised legislation. The Government has issued guidelines on the gathering and use of scientific advice and evidence, designed to ensure that these are “credible, reliable (...) and objective.” This article tests the Committee’s approach in the light of its remit and these, and other, relevant guidelines and concludes that it failed to meet these standards. Rather, it effectively ceded to an interest group the regulation of its own activities. The article ends by suggesting alterations to the Committee’s remit and composition designed to ensure that the public interest is better protected in future. (shrink)
This article deals with the discussion on the status of the human embryo in Italy on a philosophical, socio-ethical and juridical level before, during and after the law (n. 40/2004). Different lines of thought are outlined and critically discussed. The focus is the debate over the so-called embryonic stem cells, pointing out the ethical premises and the juridical implications. The regulations in Italy are analysed in detail, referring to legislation and jurisprudence (showing analogies and differences). In particular the author (...) includes evidence for the debate after the law came in, with specific attention on the question of the use of imported embryonic stem cells and public financing for research and the problem of the use of frozen and non-implantable embryos. (shrink)
Suppose a fire broke out in a fertility clinic. One had time to save either a young girl, or a tray of ten human embryos. Would it be wrong to save the girl? According to Michael Sandel, the moral intuition is to save the girl; what is more, one ought to do so, and this demonstrates that human embryos do not possess full personhood, and hence deserve only limited respect and may be killed for medical research. We will argue, however, (...) that no relevant ethical implications can be drawn from the thought experiment. It demonstrates neither that one always ought to let the embryos die, nor does it allow for any general conclusion concerning the moral status of human embryos. (shrink)
Many who believe that human embryos have moral status are convinced that their use in human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research can be morally justified as long as they are discarded embryos left over from fertility treatments. This is one reason why this view about discarded embryos has played such a prominent role in the debate over publicly funding hESC research in the United States and other countries. Many believe that this view offers the best chance of a compromise between (...) the different sides in this debate. This paper focuses on what seems to be the most plausible argument for this view about discarded embryos. It shows that this argument is unsound regardless of how one understands the claim that embryos have moral status. It also discusses the implications of this conclusion for attempts to use this argument as a basis for public policy. (shrink)
As rational adults, we are free to elect what is (or is not) done to our bodies. However, this strong freedom does not extend to the borders of life. Control over the uses of our biological material is constrained and uncertain at law. Our article examines the legal condition of embryos and organs: how law conceptualises them and regulates their uses.
Debates on the moral status of human embryos have been highly and continuously controversial. For many, these controversies have turned into a fruitless scholastical endeavor. However, recent developments and insights in cellular biology have cast further doubt on one of the core points of dissent: the argument from potentiality. In this article we want to show in a nonscholastical way why this argument cannot possibly survive. Getting once more into the intricacies of status debates is a must in our eyes. (...) Not merely intellectual coherence but the standing and self-understanding of current stem cell research might profit from finally taking leave of the argument from potentiality. (shrink)
The moral, legal, and public policy dispute over embryonic stem cell research (and related matters, such as human cloning) is the most prominent issue in American public bioethics of the past decade. The primary moral question raised by the practice of embryonic stem cell research is whether it is defensible to disaggregate (and thus destroy) living human embryos in order to derive pluripotent cells (stem cells) for purposes of basic research that may someday yield regenerative therapies. This essay will explain (...) the legal and political dimensions of the embryonic stem cell debate as it has unfolded at the national level in the United States, contrasting the position and thinking of President Clinton’s administration with that of George W. Bush. Building upon this, a set of brief reflections is offered on the form and substance of the American federal approach to this public matter, and whether it is ultimately sustainable to join the issue in this particular way. (shrink)
This paper argues in defense of theanti-reductionist consensus in the philosophy ofbiology. More specifically, it takes issues with AlexRosenberg's recent challenge of this position. Weargue that the results of modern developmentalgenetics rather than eliminating the need forfunctional kinds in explanations of developmentactually reinforce their importance.
This paper argues that the consensus physicalist antireductionism in the philosophy of biology cannot accommodate the research strategy or indeed the recent findings of molecular developmental biology. After describing Wolperts programmatic claims on its behalf, and recent work by Gehring and others to identify the molecular determinants of development, the paper attempts to identify the relationship between evolutionary and developmental biology by reconciling two apparently conflicting accounts of bio-function – Wrights and Nagels (as elaborated by Cummins). Finally, the paper seeks (...) a way of defending the two central theses of physicalist antireductionism in the light of the research program of molecular developmental biology, by sharply reducing their metaphysical force. (shrink)
What appeared to be the most momentous scientific advance of 2005 is currently under siege. In June, the prestigious journal Science published an article by the South Korean scientist Woo-Suk Hwang and an international team of co-authors describing how they had developed what were, in effect, â€œmade to orderâ€ lines of human stem cells cloned from an adult. Although the scientific validity of their research is now the subject of several separate investigations, it is no less important to examine its (...) ethical implications. (shrink)
Thomas Henry Huxley designated three men as the finest intellects of 19th century natural history: his dear friend Charles Darwin; his most worthy opponent Georges Cuvier; and Karl Ernst von Baer, who discovered the mammalian egg cell in 1827 and wrote the founding treatise of modern embryology in 1828. Of these three, posterity has largely forgotten von Baer, who suffered a severe mental breakdown in the 1830's, but then recovered and moved to Russia (not uncommon for a German-speaking Estonian national), (...) where he enjoyed a distinguished second university career, largely in anthropology and lasting well into the 1870's. (shrink)
It is widely held that (1) there are autonomous levels of organization above that of the macromolecule and that (2) at least sometimes macromolecular processes are best explained in terms of such autonomous kinds. I argue that molecular developmental biology honors neither of these claims, and I show that the only way they can be rendered consistent with a minimal physicalism is through the adoption of controversial claims about causation and explanation which undercut the force of these two antireductionism claims.
Bettina Schöne-Seifert and Marco Stier present a host of detailed and intriguing arguments to the effect that potentiality arguments have to be viewed as outdated due to developments in stem cell research, in particular the possibility of re-setting the development potential of differentiated cells, such as skin cells. However, their argument leaves them without an explanation of the intuitive difference between skin cells and human beings, which seems to be based on the assumption that a skin cell is merely part (...) of a human organism, while an embryo is at some point a human organism. An appropriately designed concept of the human organism can explain the difference, but also has the potential of re-dividing the argumentative landscape along familiar lines. (shrink)