Stem Cell Reviews and Reports

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 96–101 | Cite as

Emerging Ethical, Legal and Social Issues Associated with Stem Cell Research & and the Current Role of the Moral Status of the Embryo

  • Amy Zarzeczny
  • Timothy Caulfield


Since its early days, stem cell research, particularly human embryonic stem cell research, has been the focus of intense social debate, and the question of the moral status of the embryo has been a central issue in the controversy. Despite this friction, and while it has yet to obtain widespread success in clinical applications, stem cell research remains a great hope for future advances in healthcare. In this paper, we will discuss the results of our systematic literature review in which we examined recent social science, legal and biomedical discourse, as well as Canadian print media discourse, associated with stem cell research in order to assess the role the question of the moral status of the embryo currently plays in these forums, and to identify what other issues are emerging and receiving attention. This analysis will assist with recognizing the issues which are likely to inform future policy and will facilitate forecasting the probable direction of the continually developing social discourse surrounding stem cell research.


Stem cell research Moral status Embryo Discourse Policy Emerging themes 



This work was completed as part of the Canadian Stem Cell Network funded project, “The Stem Cell Research Environment: Drawing the Evidence and Experience Together”. Additional thanks go to all of the participants of the Lay of the Land workshop for their invaluable comments and advice, and to Erin Nelson and Michael McDonald for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Law InstituteUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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