Stem Cell Reviews and Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 10–17 | Cite as

Cross-border Research on Human Embryonic Stem Cells: Legal and Ethical Considerations

Article

Abstract

Although stem cell research is a field that stands to benefit a lot from international cooperation, collaboration between scientists of different countries is hampered by the great divergence in national stem cell legislations. More specifically, researchers from countries with restrictive stem cell policies find themselves unable to participate in international research or attend meetings or workshops in more permissive environments as they fear being prosecuted in their home country for activities that are deemed acceptable abroad. Juridical clarity on this subject is long overdue. Legally, extraterritorial jurisdiction based on the nationality principle does not conflict with international law. However, invoking this principle to prosecute stem cell researchers would constitute a breach with the current custom to limit extraterritorial jurisdiction to exceptional crimes or circumstances. On the ethical front, legislators have an obligation towards their constituents to protect them from harm through the criminal justice system, but at the same time they should be wary of legal moralism and of jeopardising freedom of research. Researchers on their part cannot simply ignore the law whenever it deviates from their personal moral opinions, but they are not acting unethically if they perform research that they esteem to be ethically justified where it is also legally accepted. Allowing researchers to work freely abroad—within the jurisdiction of the host country—is a way for legislator and researcher to show respect for each other’s different moral values and to balance their rights and obligations towards each other.

Keywords

Freedom of research Research tourism Stem cell research Extraterritorial jurisdiction International research Stem cell legislation 

References

  1. 1.
    Webb, S., Pain, E. (2006). Navigating the stem-cell research maze. Science Careers, 1 December 2006, http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_development/previous_issues/articles/2006_12_01/navigating_the_stem_cell_research_maze [Accessed September 10, 2008].
  2. 2.
    Levine, A. D. (2006). Research policy and the mobility of US stem cell scientists. Nature biotechnology, 24, 865–866. doi:10.1038/nbt0706-865.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hinxton Group (2006). Consensus Statement. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/bioethics/finalsc.doc [Accessed September 10, 2008].
  4. 4.
    Mathews, D. J. H., Donovan, P., Harris, J., Lovell-Badge, R., Savulescu, J., & Faden, R. (2006). Integrity in international stem cell research collaborations. Science, 313, 921–922. doi:10.1126/science.1127990.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    International Society for Stem Cell Research (2006). Guidelines for the conduct of human embryonic stem cell research. http://www.isscr.org/guidelines/ISSCRhESCguidelines2006.pdf [Accessed September 10, 2008].
  6. 6.
    National Research Council Institute of Medicine (2005). Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Directors of ESTOOLS and EuroStemCell (2007). Joint Statement: The impact of legislation in Europe on our ability to perform research using stem cells. http://archive.eurostemcell.org/Documents/press_releases/27.07.07-JointStatement-estools-eurostemcell.pdf [Accessed September 10, 2008].
  8. 8.
    Brownlie, I. (1998). Principles of Public International Law (5thth ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Harvard Research in International Law (1935). Jurisdiction with respect to crime. American journal of international law, 29(Suppl), 435–445.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bantekas, I., & Nash, S. (2003). International Criminal Law p. 153. London, New York: Routledge–Cavendish.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Wallace, R. M. (2005). International Law pp. 121–122. London: Sweet & Maxwell.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bantekas, I., Nash, S. Op. cit.:156.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Geneva Convention IV (1949). Relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war. http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/385ec082b509e76c41256739003e636d/6756482d86146898c125641e004aa3c5 [Accessed September 10, 2008].
  14. 14.
    Eser, A., & Koch, H. G. (2003) Forschung mit humanen embryonalen Stammzellen im In- und Ausland. Rechtsgutachten zu den strafrechtlichen Grundlagen und Grenzen der Gewinnung, Verwendung und des Imports sowie der Beteiligung daran durch Veranlassung, Förderung und Beratung. http://www.dfg.de/aktuelles_presse/reden_stellungnahmen/2003/download/gutachten_eser_koch.pdf [Accessed September 10, 2008].
  15. 15.
    Skene, L. (2007). Undertaking research in other countries: national ethico-legal barometers and international ethical consensus statements. PLoS Med, 4, 243–247. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Dahs, H., & Müssig, B. (2003). Rechtliche Stellungnahme. http://www.dfg.de/aktuelles_presse/reden_stellungnahmen/2003/download/gutachten_dahs_muessig.pdf [Accessed September 10, 2008].
  17. 17.
    Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (2006). Stammzellforschung in Deutschland—Möglichkeiten und Perspektiven. http://www.dfg.de/aktuelles_presse/reden_stellungnahmen/2006/download/stammzellforschung_deutschland_lang_0610.pdf [Accessed September 10, 2008].
  18. 18.
    Devlin, P. (1965). The enforcement of morals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Feinberg, J. (1987). Some unswept debris from the Hart-Devlin debate. Synthese, 72, 249–275. doi:10.1007/BF00413641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Hart, H. L. A. (1963). Law, liberty and morality. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Skene L. Op. cit.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Gesetz zur Sicherstellung des Embryonenschutzes im Zusammenhang mit Einfuhr und Verwendung menschlicher embryonaler Stammzellen (Stammzellgesetz—StZG). 2002. Bundesgesetzblatt I, 42, S. 2277.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Gutmann, A., & Thompson, D. (1997). Deliberating about bioethics. Hastings Center report, 27, 38–41. doi:10.2307/3528667.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Pennings, G. (2002). Reproductive tourism as moral pluralism in motion. Journal of medical ethics, 28, 337–341. doi:10.1136/jme.28.6.337.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Pennings, G. (2004). Legal harmonization and reproductive tourism in Europe. Human reproduction, 19, 2689–2694. doi:10.1093/humrep/deh486.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Dahs, H., & Müssig, B. Op. cit.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Vogel, G. (2003). Visiting German profs could face jail. Science, 301, 577. doi:10.1126/science.301.5633.577a.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Macklin, R. (2004). Double standards in medical research in developing countries p. 145. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Australian government (2007). National statement on ethical conduct in human research. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/publications/synopses/_files/e72.pdf [Accessed September 10, 2008].
  30. 30.
    Lurie, P., & Wolfe, S. M. (1997). Unethical trials of interventions to reduce perinatal transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus in developing countries. New England journal of medicine, 337, 853–856. doi:10.1056/NEJM199709183371212.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Angell, M. (1997). The ethics of clinical research in the third world. New England journal of medicine, 337, 847–849. doi:10.1056/NEJM199709183371209.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Humana Press 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bioethics Institute GhentGhent UniversityGentBelgium

Personalised recommendations