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Embryonic stem cell research: the relevance of ethics in the progress of science.

Miguel Ruiz-Canela

Med Sci Monit 2002; 8(5): SR21-26

ID: 420827


Experimentation with embryonic stem (ES) cells has become an importantbreakthrough in medical research. However, it is also a source of controversy, because it requires thedestruction of the human embryos used to derive ES cells. This paper deals with some of the ethical issuesconcerning ES cell research. To begin with, the terms used in the debate on the ethical status of thehuman embryo need to be defined. Apart from the presumed benefits of ES cell research, we should alsoconsider such issues as the strong opposition to this research by a large part of society, who arguein favour of protecting and respecting human embryos; the fragility and defenseless of human embryos;and the contradiction in terms inherent in the statement that human embryos must be treated with respect.Secondly, we should focus on possible conflicts between the financial, scientific, and ethical aspectsof this debate. Thirdly, the significance of social and political debate requires clear and completeinformation that takes all consequences into account. Finally, the paper suggests how multipotent adultstem cell research may be an optimal and realistic alternative to ES cell research.

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