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Human Research Ethics Information


What are the key medical bioethical issues of embryonic stem cell research?


Answer: Embryonic stem cell research is unethical because it requires the destruction of the embryos to obtain the stem cells. Traditional medical education has defined human embryology as human development from the point of fertilization between egg and sperm. The continuum of human development starts with fertilization to death. There has been a concerted effort by several scientists and secular ethicists to re-define the beginning of human development. From a medical bioethical position, human embryonic research conflicts with Federal laws governed by the National Research Act of 1974. The Federal law is based on three main principles:


a). Respect for the subject: This principle refers to the notion that individuals should be treated as autonomous agents, and persons with diminished autonomy are entitled to protection.


b). Beneficence: This principle refers to the notion of doing no harm and maximizing possible benefits and minimize possible harms for the subject and not the recipients who may benefit from research.


c). Justice: This principle refers to who ought to receive the benefits of research and who bear its burdens. This is a question of justice, in the sense of "fairness in distribution" or "what is deserved." An injustice occurs when some benefit to which a person is entitled is denied without good reason or when some burden is imposed unduly.

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