Fetal Research: Response to the Recommendations

Hastings Center Report 5 (5):9-16 (1975)
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The June 1975 issue of the Hastings Center Report published the Deliberations and Recommendations of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects concerning the regulation of fetal experimentation. The Commission's most controversial conclusions were as follows: First, it voted to allow non‐therapeutic research on the human fetus, provided important biomedical knowledge could not be gained in any other way, proper consent had been obtained, and the research imposed “minimal or no risk to the well‐being of the fetus” (Recommendation 4). Because interpretations of the last phrase varied in the case of fetuses scheduled for abortion, the Commission recommended that a national ethical review body be able to rule on disputed cases (Recommendation 5). In the case of research during abortion and research on the non‐viable fetus ex utero, the Commission's interpretation of permissible “harm” was restricted to the proviso that “no intrusion into the fetus [may be] made which alters the duration of life” (Recommendation 6). The Commission also recommended further research on abortion techniques (Recommendation 12). The Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare accepted the Commission's Recommendations almost without change—the major modification was to request paternal consent rather than to rely on the fact that “the father has not objected.” The DHEW regulations were published in the Federal Register on Friday, August 8, 1975, and written comments on them were invited. Already, however, a number of commentators including several members of the Commission had offered either dissenting or qualifying remarks. Some are printed here.



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