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Legislative Regulation of Fetal Experimentation

On Negotiating Compromise in Situations of Ethical Pluralism
  • Charles H. Baron

Abstract

In 1977, the authors of a leading work on human experimentation stated, “Of all research discussed in this book, experimentation with fetuses is perhaps the most controversial.”1 It had not always been thus. Prior to 1973 and the decision in Roe v. Wade,2 fetal experimentation had been conducted with little public concern.3 This fact has led some to suggest that opposition to fetal experimentation is largely a rear-guard action being fought by opponents of the Roe decision who do not want burgeoning medical benefits from fetal research to impede their antiabortion efforts.4 But the timing of the fetal experimentation controversy can be explained in other ways as well. Prior to Roe, most fetal research in the United States was claimed to be incidental to and consistent with therapeutic efforts.5 Without widespread elective abortion, there were not widespread opportunities for ex utero experimentation on living abortuses or in utero experimentation on fetuses scheduled for abortion. After Roe, there was suddenly the prospect of millions of fetuses offered as ideal subjects for such experimentation on the grounds that (1) they were of questionable status as human beings;6 (2) they were scheduled to die; and (3) as experimental subjects, they could make important contributions to the power of medical science to save the lives or improve the health of others. To many observers, this scenario seemed frighteningly familiar. Just 30 years before, medical doctors had used the same grounds to justify human experimentation on the millions of inmates at the Nazi death camps.7

Keywords

Supra Note Abort Fetus State Statute Dead Fetus Nontherapeutic Research 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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References and Notes

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Copyright information

© Aubrey Milunsky and George J. Annas 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles H. Baron
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston College Law SchoolNewtonUSA

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