Why not a zero-day rule on human embryo research?

Here’s an “on the quick” from the nurse advocate, Elizabeth Hanink.

For many decades (since the first test-tube babies), scientists have observed the “14-day-rule” with respect to human embryo research. In several countries, this rule was codified into law. The length of days was somewhat arbitrary and arose primarily because it was not yet possible to grow embryos in the lab for much longer. To some, the embryo gained additional status as a distinct human being after this point. It could orient itself back to the front for instance, and it was no longer possible for twinning to occur.

It is now possible for the embryos to live longer in culture, and the International Society for Stem-Cell Research advocates that the rule be revisited. “This is not a green light for groups to go ahead with extending human cultures beyond 14 days,” said biologist Kathy Niakan of the University of Cambridge, one of the experts who worked on the guidelines. “The guidelines are a call to proactively engage in a two-way dialogue with the public to review the 14-day limit on human embryo culture.” The new limit might be 28-days because after that women can be aware they are pregnant and embryos are more readily available from miscarriages and abortions. But no real limit is advocated by the panel. Instead, it would depend on the particular anomaly or disease under study.

Sounds so rational, doesn’t it? Not to everyone. David Prentice and Tara Sander Lee of the Charlotte Lozier Institute issued a statement “Human beings should not be treated as research fodder to be created, manipulated, and discarded at will, no matter their stage of development. Canceling the already unethical and arbitrary ‘14-day rule’ degrades science and opens the door to horrific ‘baby in a bottle’ experiments with no limits.”

Why not a zero-day rule?


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