Ethical and governance challenges in human fetal tissue research
Clinical Ethics 2008 March; 3(1): 14-19
Genetics holds the key to understanding normal human biology and possibly many of the major causes of human disease and impairment. Research into human developmental genetics seems, therefore, to be both necessary and justified. However, such research requires the use of embryonic and fetal tissue obtained from spontaneous abortions and elective termination of pregnancy. This paper examines the arguments in favour of using tissue from elective terminations and the evolution of regulatory frameworks for this research. The paper argues that the recent statutory and regulatory reforms in the UK have not properly addressed the issue of ethically obtaining postimplantation human embryos for research. It is argued that the recent reforms have left the Polkinghorne guidelines untouched but that these are now unequal to the task. A practical suggestion for reform of the approach to the informing and consent of potential donors is offered.
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