Line-Drawing, Embryonic Stem Cell Research, and the Dickey-Wicker Amendment

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SSRN Cleveland-Marshall Legal Studies Paper No. 10-201


Dickey-Wicker Amendment, human embryonic stem cells, embryos


Human embryonic stem cell (hesc) research is the culmination of a multi-step process: creating an embryo through in vitro fertilization (IVF), deciding whether to donate or destroy embryos "left over" from that process, harvesting stem cells from embryos donated for research, and finally doing research with the stem cells themselves. Each of these points presents different ethical issues. For those for whom human embryos command relatively little moral weight, this entire process is acceptable. But for those who consider embryos the moral equivalent of persons ,and also for those for whom embryos, while not equal in importance to born humans, do carry a great deal of weight, everything depends on when in that process one comes to a moral crossroads. I argue that the line drawn by NIH in its response to the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, is not morally defensible. I also argue that for those who wish to stop or at least to decrease the destruction of embryos for stem cell research, the moral crossroads occurs much earlier: with the creation of those embryos in the fertility clinics.