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Ethical discussion should come before research

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. The time for ethical reflection is before experimentation begins, especially in the case of potential new methods for creating human embryos for research, according to bioethicists from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic in the spring issue of Ethics & Medicine.

"Before asking, 'Can we do it?' scientists should ask, 'Should we do it?'" said Nancy L. Jones, Ph.D., a cell biologist at Wake Forest Baptist.

Public controversy over research on human embryos has slowed stem cell research and prompted scientists to search for alternative ways to create embryos for research. They are using techniques such as cloning and parthenogenesis, which uses genetic material from a single parent.

Some scientists argue that these artificially created embryos provide a new source for human embryonic research and should be exempt from ethical restraints placed on human embryos. The methods being studied cannot currently create embryos that can become viable beings.

Jones and William P. Cheshire Jr., M.D., from the Mayo Clinic, on the other hand, contend that these embryos aren't a technologic fix. Instead, they say, novel methods of creating embryos have simply rephrased the questions that society must ask.

"It is essential to examine which biologic attributes should define embryonic humanity, because these entities lay now before us in the Petri dish," write the authors.

Jones and Cheshire, director of biotechnology ethics for The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and associate professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida," argue that "the decision whether to create novel variations on human life should be held to a higher precautionary standard" than deciding to destroy embryos left over from the in-vitro fertilization process.

Jones, a bioethicist, is a member of the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Human Research Protection of the U.S. Department o
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Contact: Karen Richardson
krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu
336-716-4453
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
15-Mar-2005


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