Why current uk legislation on embryo research is immoral. How the argument from lack of qualities and the argument from potentiality have been applied and why they should be rejected

Bioethics 19 (3):251–271 (2005)
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ABSTRACT On 22 January 2001, the UK became the first country to approve of embryonic stem cell research by passing the Human Fertilisation (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001, which legislated new research purposes for which early embryos can be used, in addition to those approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. Legal advisory committees, most notably the Chief Medical Officer's Expert Group and the House of Lords’ Select Committee, have offered various reasons, which can also be found in the ethics literature, to justify this change. Those examined here are the views that: 1. Early embryos lack relevant qualities (or ‘the argument from lack of qualities’) and 2. Early embryos only have a potentiality to become humans with moral status (or ‘the argument from potentiality’). The validity of these arguments is questioned and a case is made for egalitarian speciesism. Embryos have moral status (used here in the restricted sense of the status possessed by all members of the class of beings which deserve the greatest moral significance in equal measure). They have more value than the value that should be assigned to nonhuman beings from the start of fertilisation. Current UK legislation on embryo research is immoral.



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