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Research on the early human embryo has long been recognized as essential to progress in a host of biomedical areas from reproductive medicine to the treatment of pediatric cancers. Now, with the possibility of stem cell research and cell replacement therapies, embryo research holds out the promise of cures for many serious disease conditions such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Despite its importance, however, human embryo research has met powerful opposition. Drawing on his experience as a member of the NIH’s Human Embryo Research Panel, Green offers a first-hand account of the embryo research debates. In telling this story, he periodically pauses to reflect on some of the leading philosophical challenges posed by embryo research and new interventions at the start of life. Among the questions he examines are: What is the impact of new biological information on our thinking about life’s beginning? May parents risk injuring a child in order to have it? What role should religion play in shaping biomedical policy in a controversial area like this? This is a fascinating insider’s account of one of the most important, if unsuccessful, recent efforts to come to terms with a controversial area of scientific research.
Human embryonic stem cells can divide indefinitely and have the potential to develop into many types of tissue. Research on these cells is essential to one of the most intriguing medical frontiers, regenerative medicine. It also raises a host of difficult ethical issues and has sparked great public interest and controversy.
This book offers a foundation for thinking about the many issues involved in human embryonic stem cell research. It considers questions about the nature of human life, the limits of intervention into human cells and tissues, and the meaning of our corporeal existence. The fact that stem cells may be derived from living embryos that are destroyed in the process or from aborted fetuses ties the discussion of stem cell research to the ongoing debates on abortion. In addition to these issues, the essays in the book touch on broader questions such as who should approve controversial research and what constitutes human dignity, respect, and justice. The book contains contributions from the Ethics Advisory Board of the Geron Coroporation; excerpts from expert testimony given before the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, which helped shape recent National Institutes of Health policy; and original analytical essays on the implications of this research.