Academic journal article Issues in Law & Medicine

Bonnie Steinbock, Alternative Sources of Stem Cells

Academic journal article Issues in Law & Medicine

Bonnie Steinbock, Alternative Sources of Stem Cells

Article excerpt

Bonnie Steinbock, Alternative Sources of Stem Cells, HASTINGS CENTER REP., July-Aug. 2005, at 24.

Embryonic stem cell research pits the promise of curing devastating diseases and saving lives against the destruction of human life at its earliest stages. To circumvent this moral dilemma, the President's Council on Bioethics recently published a white paper, Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells, that examines four ways human pluripotent cells might be derived without killing human embryos.

The first proposal is based on an analogy with organ donation: just as it is ethically acceptable to remove organs from no-longer-living developed human beings, it should be equally acceptable to remove stem cells from no-longer-living human embryos. Determining that an embryo has died is more difficult than it is for a more fully developed being. An embryo has no integrating organs: no brain to be brain-dead, no heart to cease beating and circulating blood. The problem is compounded by the fact that, in order for stem cells to be derived, the arrested embryos must contain at least some viable cells that retain normal developmental potential and that can be induced to resume dividing. But if these cells can resume dividing under certain conditions, has the embryo in fact died?

The second proposal is based on the idea that stem cell lines might be derived from single cells extracted from early embryos in ways that do not destroy the embryo, which could then be used for reproduction. The impetus for this proposal comes from preimplantation genetic diagnosis, in which one or two cells are removed from an embryo created through IVF. …

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