Nottingham Trent University. Nottingham Law School
Place of publication
Embryonic stem cell research is perhaps the most controversial ethical issue of the new century. This is not surprising. It promises unprecedented potential benefits to human health but arguably comes at the expense of violating the most fundamental moral virtue - the right to life. The debate has become increasingly emotive. The Catholic Church has labelled stem cell research as cannibalism.1 This has led perhaps the world's most famous moral philosopher, Peter Singer, to label the Church, which has over a billion followers, as irrelevant.2 The principal purpose of this paper is not to discuss all of the relevant moral issues in the embryonic stem cell debate. Considerations of space do not permit this and in any event there are numerous reports which catalogue the relevant issues.3 Rather we attempt to identify the crux of the issues in the debate. In our view, the main issue is the point at which life commences. We offer some preliminary observations on this matter. This discussion appears in section four. In the next section, we provide a brief overview of nature and potential benefits of stem cell research. This is followed by a discussion of the current legal position. In the final section, we offer some concluding remarks including some suggestions for law reform.
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