An Obscure Rider Obstructing Science: The Conflation of Parthenotes With Embryos in the Dickey-Wicker Amendment
The American journal of bioethics : AJOB 2011 Mar; 11(3): 20-8
In 1996 Congress passed the Dickey-Wicker Amendment (DWA) as part of an appropriations bill; it has been renewed every year since. The DWA bans federal funding for research using embryos and parthenotes. In this paper, we call for a public discussion on parthenote research and a questioning of its inclusion in the DWA. We begin by explaining what parthenotes are and why they are useful for research on reproduction, cancer, and stem cells. We then argue that the scientific difference between embryos and parthenotes translates into ethical differences, and claim that research on parthenotes is much less ethically problematic. Finally, we contextualize the original passage of the DWA to provide an explanation for why the two were possibly conflated in this law. We conclude by calling for a public discussion on reconsidering the DWA in its entirety, starting with the removal of parthenogenesis from this prohibition of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding.
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