, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 50-65
Date: 12 Apr 2011

The Ethics of Moral Compromise for Stem Cell Research Policy

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Abstract

In the US, stem cell research is at a moral impasse—many see this research as ethically mandated due to its potential for ameliorating major diseases, while others see this research as ethically impermissible because it typically involves the destruction of embryos and use of ova from women. Because their creation does not require embryos or ova, induced pluripotent stem cells offer the most promising path for addressing the main ethical objections to stem cell research; however, this technology is still in development. In order for scientists to advance induced pluripotent stem cell research to a point of translational readiness, they must continue to use ova and embryos in the interim. How then are we to ethically move forward with stem cell research? We argue that there is personal integrity and value in adopting a ‘moral compromise’ as a means for moving past the moral impasse in stem cell research. In a moral compromise, each party concedes part of their desired outcome in order to engage in a process that respects the values and desires of all parties equitably. Whereas some contend that moral compromise in stem cell research necessarily involves self-contradiction or loss of personal integrity, we argue that in the US context, stem cell research satisfies many of the key pre-conditions of an effective moral compromise. To illustrate our point, we offer a model solution wherein eggs and embryos are temporarily used until non-egg and non-embryonic sources of pluripotent stem cells are developed to a state of translational readiness.