The Politics of Human-Embryo Research -- Avoiding Ethical Gridlock
Annas, George J.
New England Journal of Medicine. 1996 May 16; 334(20): 1329-1332.
The country needs clear and consistent rules for research on human embryos, as well as uniform methods of review. This uniformity cannot be provided by local institutional review boards, but only by a central review panel. There is a compelling need for the nationwide regulation of embryo research, and federal funding of such research would provide an impetus for such uniform rules. Ethics in the public sector cannot transcend politics completely, because the public sector is the political arena. But for ethical guidelines to survive changes in political power in Washington, they must be grounded on more than political expediency. When politicians can associate issues of medical ethics with the politics of abortion, they will do so. In politics, the majority vote wins. In ethics, however, ethical reasoning should prevail: a vote without a supporting rationale will not be convincing to policy makers in a world where one's position on abortion can directly affect one's political future. Ethics panels debating an abortion-related issue must persuasively distinguish their subjects from abortion itself and provide a strong ethical reason for the research and its need for public funding. As the angry response to President Clinton's April 10 veto of a ban on "partial-birth" abortion demonstrates, we are nowhere near a political consensus about abortion. Unless we are content to let the politics of abortion bring discussions of publicly funded medical research to gridlock, we must do much better at articulating an ethical basis for abortion-related research.
Abortion; Advisory Committees; Beginning of Life; Consensus; Diagnosis; Embryo Research; Embryos; Ethics; Evaluation; Family Relationship; Federal Government; Fetal Research; Government; Government Financing; Government Regulation; Guidelines; Health; Infertility; Institutional Review Boards; Life; Medical Ethics; Methods; Moral Obligations; Moral Policy; Medical Research; Personhood; Policy Analysis; Politics; Preimplantation Diagnosis; Public Policy; Public Sector; Power; Regulation; Reproduction; Research; Review; Rights;
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