A Postmodernist Take on the Human Embryo Research Debate
36 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2004
This paper is part of a forthcoming symposium that focuses on human embryonic stem cell research, and it responds to the lead paper by Ann Kiessling that urges the use of a more precise scientific definition of the term embryo to include only fertilized ova after implantation in the uterus, which would exclude the conceptus in vitro as well as the products of parthenogenesis and somatic cell nuclear transfer. Although agreeing with her about the desirability of promoting stem cell research, this paper quibbles with Kiessling's account of inconsistencies in definitions of the term embryo found in dictionaries, state statutes, judicial opinions, and advisory panel reports, and it emphasizes the extent to which the question turns on political rather than scientific factors. The paper explains that the federal government uses a definition directly at odds with the one Kiessling recommends, and it criticizes the extent to which the Bush administration has further politicized the issue, but the paper ultimately challenges the premise that semantic games can help to circumvent this debate.
JEL Classification: I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation