Brave New Review Committees
On this 75th anniversary of the publication of Brave New World, the International Society for Stem Cell Research has published “Guidelines for the Conduct of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research”. Like several similar documents published by scientific bodies in the past few years, it completely ignores the ethical questions surrounding the destruction of human embryos, which have made this field so controversial in the first place. No one expects a body of biologists to resolve the moral status of the human embryo, but if they’re going to ignore it, why bother with all these guideline documents? And on some other questions raised by embryonic stem cell research—like the creation of human-animal chimeras and payment to women who donate eggs for research—this latest non-binding report is even more permissive than the last non-binding report. It does, though, recommend that human-animal combinations not be allowed to breed, unless of course “there is a very strong scientific rationale for deriving offspring from such animals” in which case “review committees should consider whether such an experiment might be appropriate to pursue.” That’s a relief.