Uses of Respect and Uses of the Human Embryo

9 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2007


In most parts of the world, research on the human embryo is subject to tight controls. In the United Kingdom it is restricted by means of both a fourteen-day time limit and the permitted purposes of the research. One of the ways in which the argument for these restrictions has been put is in terms of respect. That is, the human embryo is said to be the kind of thing that is worthy of a measure of respect such that there are limits to what can be done to it. This paper considers some of the ways in which this principle of respect has been understood as well as some objections to the very idea that research resulting in the destruction of the human embryo can claim to show that embryo respect. It will be argued that an account of 'respectful destruction' can be articulated on the grounds of our shared finitude as human moral agents, and in particular on the grounds of our shared lack of certainty regarding the moral status of the embryo.

Suggested Citation

Gibson, Susanne, Uses of Respect and Uses of the Human Embryo. Bioethics, Vol. 21, No. 7, pp. 370-378, September 2007. Available at SSRN: or

Susanne Gibson (Contact Author)

St. Martin's College ( email )

Lancaster LA1 3JD UK
United Kingdom

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