The ethics of embryonic stem cell research

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In this article I rebut conservative objections to five phases of embryonic stem cell research. I argue that researchers using existing embryonic stem cell lines are not complicit in the past destruction of embryos because beneficiaries of immoral acts are not necessary morally tainted. Second, such researchers do not encourage the destruction of additional embryos because fertility clinics presently destroy more spare embryos than researchers need. Third, actually harvesting stem cells from slated-to-be-discarded embryos is not wrong. The embryos are not sacrificed for the good of others because they would have been destroyed anyway. Fourth, harvesting stem cells from embryos that are not doomed is morally acceptable, because preserving frozen embryos is futile therapy. Finally, creating embryos solely for the sake of harvesting stem cells from them is morally acceptable because the assumption that embryos have the right to life has very counterintuitive implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)533-562
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Medicine and Philosophy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Cloning
  • Complicity
  • Embryo
  • Stem cell


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