Embryo Research and All Its Glories

Ethical theories applied to embryo research.

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  • Created by: Bea Djan
  • Created on: 24-04-10 18:56
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Principle of Utility It may be assumed that utilitarianism would have no problem with using spare embryos they would otherwise be discarded, and if we get any use out of them at all, the end
justifies the means. This reasoning appears pretty sound, and is probably the sort of argument used to justify embryo research. It would be easy to assume that utilitarianism would
therefore support the creation of embryos for research. No harm is being done (embryos feel no pain), and much good could be done. Every aborted foetus could yield hundreds of
eggs from which hundreds of embryos could be produced.
Act: Hedonic Calculus Further, when doing a utilitarian calculation, you would need to weigh up different possibilities. For an embryo, wouldn't the outcome be better if you attempted to implant it rather
than experiment on it? This argument is more easily dismissed, as the embryo was never going to be implanted. You are choosing between creating it and experimenting on it,
and not creating it at all.
Rule: Universalised Could universalise, `any embryos that are being aborted should go to embryo research'.
Quantity/Quality Embryo research improves the quality of research done on finding cures for diseases. Embryo stem cell not counted i hedonic calculus.
Teleological/Consequences Possible cure for all disorders. If we move past Bentham's theory, which recognised only pleasure as being of value, we would need to ask whether an embryo has any interests.
Certainly some people would argue that it is in an embryo's interests to be implanted. The counterargument is that embryos have no interests, but if you look at how far Singer is
willing to assign interests in terms of the environment, this may not be such an easy argument to win.
Maxim/Universalise Kant's theory takes a suggested maxim and universalises it, seeing whether one could will the maxim as a universal law of nature. The destruction of embryos would be contrary
to this, and no amount of positive consequences could justify this. To be clear about why this is, imagine if embryos were experimented on as a law of nature. If this was the
case, I might never have been born. This doesn't require any assumption about the status of an embryo, merely the recognition that my genetic code was distinct from the earliest
stages, and therefore to destroy or experiment on an embryo would be to prevent a specific person from being born. This may not apply if an embryo is created artificially, for
example to produce embryonic stem cells. The question is whether the embryo could have developed into a rational being. If it could, that rational being could not will the
destruction of artificially created embryos, and therefore none of us should.
Duty/Good Will/Summon bonum The Summon bonum would be to find a cure to incurable diseases.
Categorical Imperative It is treating embryos as a means to an end which is wrong, if embryos are rational beings. The maxim `use spare embryos for stem cell research' is universalisable and is not a
contradiction in the Law of Nature. However the maxim `create embryos for stem cell research' is not universalisable because there would be no embryo's left to develop into
humans ­ the human race would face extinction. This is a contradiction in the Law of Nature. Embryo research may not be willed to be universalized, thus it could be seen to be a
contradiction in the Law of the Will.
Apparent Good/Interior Act
Eternal Law
Divine Law
Natural Law
Human Law
Primary/Secondary Precepts Primary Precept 'Protect and preserve the innocent' would mean that anything done to an embryo that would prevent it from developing would be seen as wrong. The purpose of
an embryo is to grow into a person, so it would be wrong to experiment on an embryo.
Double Effect
Deontological Aristotle said that everything has potentiality and actuality. The sole good is to turn potentiality into actuality. Surely then an embryo should be given the opportunity to turn its
potential to become a human being into actuality.
Roman Catholic Church · God created Humans in his image Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image
· Humans are purposefully called into existence Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, be fruitful and increase in number

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Human life has intrinsic value because it has been made in God's image Genesis 9:6 `Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed for in the image of God
has God made them.'
· Life is divinely and uniquely ordained from conception Psalm 139:13 For you created my inmost being you knit me together in my mother's womb
The Church of England
Situation Ethics Situation Ethics is based on the single maxim of agape love.…read more

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