by some people as a human being. A second objection, which relates to blastocysts created for research purposes—whether through fertilization or NT—is that it is wrong to create a blastocyst with the intention of destroying it. A third objection is that some of the research depends on donor oocytes, which could result in the exploitation of women. In addition, some people are concerned about the mixing of human and nonhuman cells for research purposes. Finally, some object to the use of NT to derive hES cells because they fear that the use of NT for research purposes could lead to its use to produce a child.
Like all scientific work involving human embryos, hES cell research raises profound questions about the status of the human embryo, the extent to which it is justifiable to use human embryos to expand knowledge and ameliorate human suffering, and the conditions under which these goals may be pursued. Throughout its deliberations the committee was keenly aware that some view human embryos as morally equivalent to born human persons. This position takes several forms. Some argue that the identity of a future born person is present in the embryo. Others identify the moral equivalence of the human embryo to the born human person with the embryo’s potentiality. Still others claim that human dignity is undermined by excessive manipulation of the human embryo regardless of the purpose and that this could lead to the abuse and exploitation of human persons more generally.
Yet even in our own society, where many hold this view in a philosophical sense, it has not been adopted as a matter of cultural practice. For example, the natural loss of an embryo in normal human reproduction is not recognized as a death that requires a funeral, and the disposal of human embryos after completion of infertility treatments is not treated as murder by the legal system. Nonetheless, in the United States in particular, hES cell research is eligible for limited federal funding because the current administration wishes to acknowledge the view of some that the destruction of embryos required to obtain new cell lines gives such lines a moral taint.
In contrast, many religious traditions—Islam, Judaism, and numerous Protestant denominations—do not recognize the human embryo before 40 days after conception as an entity that should be accorded the same moral status as a person. Among some of these traditions, there is also a strong commitment that faith must be manifest in good works and that the world itself and the persons within it should be objects of strenuous efforts to heal (National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC), 1999b). To be sure, in these traditions the human embryo may have greater moral status than other collections of cells, but not so much that its cells may not be respectfully applied toward the other goals to which the faithful are committed.
There is a more general debate about the meaning of human dignity. For some, the use or creation of human embryos in research, or even the very prospect of