Cent Eur Neurosurg 2005; 66(2): 75-78
DOI: 10.1055/s-2005-836488
Invited Article

© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

Ethical Aspects of Use of Fetal/Embryonic Cells in Treatment and Research

Ethische Aspekte des Nutzens fötaler/embryonaler Zellen in Forschung und TherapieH. Watt1
  • 1Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, London, United Kingdom
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
22 April 2005 (online)


The use of cells derived from in vitro embryos or aborted human fetuses raises serious moral questions for doctors and researchers. It is not enough to anticipate good from such use: morality is concerned not merely with outcome, but with choices and their impact on character. The human moral subject is the human organism, who has rights and interests from the beginning of his or her existence. Harvesting cells or tissue from an embryo or fetus who is deliberately destroyed - in some cases, by the harvesting itself - is a violation of the rights of the individual concerned. To accept cells or tissue from those who did the harvesting (as opposed to using a much older cell-line) is to give the impression that we condone the harvesting, and indeed the taking of the donor's life. Irrespective of the medical benefits for which we may be hoping, we cannot relieve the suffering of one human individual by exploiting another.


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Dr. Helen Watt, Director 

Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics

60 Grove End Road

London NW8 9NH

United Kingdom

Phone: +44/20/78 06 40 88

Fax: +44/20/72 66 54 24

Email: h.watt@linacre.org