Summary

Opposition to human embryonic stem (hES) cell research are many and varied; but many arguments are centred on the issue of embryo ‘potentiality’. Staunch opponents of hES cell research hold that the embryo is a ‘potential’ person from the moment of fertilisation. The embryo therefore has the right to life and its life is considered sacred. As such, hES cell research should not be allowed. The major world religions have differing views with regards to the potentiality of the embryo; and their views surrounding hES research are similarly varied. The Catholic Church, which holds that life begins at fertilisation, is a staunch opponent of embryonic stem cell research; openly condemning the creation of supernumerary embryos for research and only permitting IVF under extremely strict regulations. The Protestant church states that every man should be responsible for his own morality and sense of conscience; and is subsequently responsible for reaching his/her own conclusion with regards to hES cell research. Judaism holds that full human status is not obtained at the point of fertilisation but rather is acquired after a period of development; and stresses the importance of the duty of the saving of life. As such, hES cell research within such context is acceptable. Islam states that ‘ensoulment’ of the embryo occurs at the 40th day after fertilization. As such, stem cell research may be permissible up to this point. Non-religious groups including humanists have also voiced concerns with regards to the ethical permissibility of human embryonic stem cell research. National/governmental policies with regards to human stem cell research may be influenced by numerous contributing factors including the stance of the nation’s dominant faith group(s), as well as its political, historical and societal backdrop. Learn More (Further Reading) Babington C. Stem cell bill gets Bush’s first veto. Washington Post 20 July 2006:A04. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/19/ AR2006071900524.html (accessed 19/03/10) Centre of Bioethics, Univeristy of Minnesota. (n.d.). Human Stem Cells: An Ethical Overview. Human Stem Cells: An Ethical Overview . Green, R. (2008). The Embryo as epiphenomenon: some cultural, societal and economic factors driving the stem cell debate. J Med Ethics , 840-844. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, International Bioethics Committee (IBC). (2001). The Use of Embryonic Stem Cells in Therapeutic Research: Report of the IBC on the Ethical Aspects of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Paris: United Nations.