Research on Preimplantation Embryos: Ethical Imperatives D Gareth
Research on Preimplantation Embryos: Ethical Imperatives D Gareth Jones University of Otago Background Ongoing debate and controversy Destruction of human life Same moral space as abortion
New Zealand accepts embryo destruction in IVF and PGD; appears to reject it in embryo research Background Accept 14-day limit to research? Requires agreement of Minister of Health Restrictive by default since 2007 One might have expected that anyone who permits couples to create multiple embryos for reproductive
purposes might also allow scientists to carry out research on embryos (Cole-Turner 2003) Background HART Act (2004) Establishment, prohibition, regulation Established procedures: routine clinical; no ethical approval; IVF, PGD Prohibited actions: cloned/hybrid embryos; genetic modification; embryos >14 days; commercialization;
sex selection Background Embryo research Regulated procedure (in theory) ECART approval Guidelines from ACART Ministers approval In limbo
Background Restricted by default Minister under no obligation to accept ACARTs advice Contrary to preferred position? Have recent Governments been opposed to embryo research? Consequences of current
situation Position satisfies no one Embryos destroyed in large numbers IVF, PGD (established) Wall of silence fails to satisfy those opposed to any loss of embryos IVF would not have developed without innovative research using human tissue Consequences of current
situation It is an ethical requirement that the procedures used are as effective and safe as possible, since we wrong a future child by carelessness or neglect in our reproductive conduct Green 2001 the health and well-being of children born as a result of . . . . an ART or an established procedure should be an important consideration in all decisions about that procedure HART Act 2004
Morally complicit? Consequences of current situation Day of Transfer study Cleavage stage embryo transfer (day 3) Blastocyst embryo transfer (day 5) Human reproductive research Use of embryos
Embryo transfer in IVF is established procedure Consequences of current situation Embryo research Normal development three main tissue layers and emergence of specialized tissues Tracking abnormal development, why some
embryos fail to develop, aberrant pathways leading to infertility, congenital aberrations, tumour formation Ways of improving IVF implantation rates General comments Hijacked by debate on stem cells Abortion Hampered by context of discussion Binary pro-life, pro-choice paradigm - stumbling
block Excessive emphasis on embryonic stem cells (ESCs) Overhyping potential of ESCs or dismissal of them General comments Intermingling of science and ethics Induced pluripotential stem cells (IPSCs) derived from mature cells 2006 potential exaggerated Would replace ESCs solve ethical problems
Shinya Yamanaka - promise overstated; 10 target diseases for IPSCs Problems with NZ debate over embryo research HART Act stuck in time warp Reflects stem cell centred debate in 1990s and 2000s Centrality of stem cells and ESCs Discussion around serious research into embryo
development ignored in public debate Problems with NZ debate over embryo research Is HART Act fit for purpose? Renewed debate on 14-day rule Should rule be extended to 21 or 28 days to culture embryos through implantation stages? To reveal key events of early human morphogenesis
Studies up to 13 days (Zernicka-Goetz) Debate: Warnock/Lovell-Badge Problems with NZ debate over embryo research Recent scientific developments Mitochondrial replacement therapy (3-parent embryo) In vitro screening of embryo Whole genome sequencing of embryos Connor Levy 2013
CRISPR gene editing Need for education on developments with major repercussions for the ARTs Problems with NZ debate over embryo research Words/labels Intimidating social connotations of research, genetic modification, selection, gene editing,
designer babies etc Consider hypothetical future: possible choice of PGD over gene-editing technology; directions will still need to be charted Ongoing conceptual blocks Consensus on moral status of embryo is not feasible in pluralist societies Acceptance of compromise
Diversity of religious views God and the Embryo, 2003 Embryo research is not morally indifferent action Ongoing conceptual blocks A time-limit on research is a public policy tool to carve out a space for scientific inquiry and also show respect for diverse views on legitimacy of
this research Success of 14-day rule: legally enforceable stopping point for research Satisfies neither extreme Balance between enabling research and maintaining public trust Concluding comments HART Act is cautious; some merit in this Arena for informed public debate lacking
Debate needed if we want the public to have confidence in regulation of science Scientific and clinical communities need to know their input is respected and taken into account in decision-making
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