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Reproductive Technology: Ethical Issues

Stem Cells

The existence of stem cells—cells with the potential to develop into a wide variety of other cell types—presents other ethical issues. Placental stem cells may not be able to become every type of cell in the body. In contrast, stem cells derived from developing embryos can. People who believe abortion is ethically acceptable usually have little problem with stem cell collection, because they do not accept the embryo as a person at this stage of gestation.

Most people who believe that personhood begins at conception object to harvesting stem cells from embryos, even from the many thousands of embryos frozen in reproductive clinics that gradually lose their viability as years pass. In 2001 President George W. Bush declared that federal funds could be used for research only on stem cell lines that were already in existence, and that the creation of new lines could not be funded by taxpayer money. Stem cell research is allowed if funded by private sources. Many scientists feel federal money should be allowed to fund stem cell research, citing the enormous potential benefits it can bring.

Robert C. Baumiller

and Charles J. Grossman


Andrews, Lori B. The Clone Age: Adventures in the New World of Reproductive Technology. New York: Henry Holt, 2000.

Ramsey, Paul. Fabricated Man. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970.

Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 1987. "Introduction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation." Origins 16, no. 40 (March 19, 1987): 698-711.

Internet Resource

Ratzinger, Joseph, and Alberto Bovone. "Respect for Human Life: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith." Rome. The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Apostle. February 1987. <http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/cdfhuman.htm>.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaGenetics in Medicine - Part 4Reproductive Technology: Ethical Issues - Recoiling From Eugenics, The Poles Of The Debate, Donor Gametes, In Vitro Fertilization And Surrogacy