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An Intercultural Perspective on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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Stem Cells, Human Embryos and Ethics

Four major policy options regarding human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research have been adopted by various nations around the world. These options can be described as the restrictive option, the permissive option, the moderate option, and the compromise option. Color-coded maps indicate the policies that have been adopted in seven world regions. In general, the worldwide trend since 2001 has been toward more permissive policies on hESC research. The United Nations also debated the questions of reproductive and research cloning between 2001 and 2005, reaching a compromise on a declaration in March 2005. Humans can be forgiven for not having yet reached firm ethical conclusions regarding in vitro embryos because such embryos only entered public consciousness in 1978 – with the birth of the first infant whose life was initiated through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Nonetheless, a broad international public consensus has emerged on the morality of IVF for reproductive purposes. From this consensus it is but a short step to the ethical acceptance of research involving IVF embryos no longer needed for reproductive purposes. The creation of embryos specifically for research purposes raises more difficult questions. The major eastern and western religious traditions have debated the abortion issue for centuries, and their discussions of this partiallyanalogous question may help to illuminate the ethical analysis of hESC research. More specifically, developmental views regarding our moral obligations toward human embryos and fetuses are quite compatible with an acceptance of research on human embryos in vitro.

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Walters, L. (2008). An Intercultural Perspective on Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. In: Østnor, L. (eds) Stem Cells, Human Embryos and Ethics. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-6989-5_7

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