Ethics of hESC Research
Research with Human Embryonic Stem Cells (hESC) is a frontier discipline that touches on a wide variety of important issues in fundamental biology, medicine and ethics. It gives hitherto unprecedented prospects to address unmet medical needs, at the same time it is raising numerous fundamental ethical questions to which there are no universally accepted answers yet: When does human life start? What is an embryo? Which techniques compromise human dignity, which do not?
The inherent pluralism of Europe and modern society in general has given rise to a multitude of philosophical concepts, religious beliefs and ethical approaches. Each of them attempts to provide conclusive answers to the above questions. Yet, many would say that none of them succeeded in answering these questions whilst also coherently addressing the concerns and reservations of other philosophies or beliefs. Consequently, in Europe hESC research is regulated according to the principle of subsidiarity according to which national regulation takes precedence over EU regulation.
As a result there are almost as many different legal approaches governing hESC research in the EU as there are Member States. Despite these – sometimes fundamentally different – approaches there is agreement on some central issues that shall apply to all aspects of hESC research: Informed Consent, Transparency/Traceability and No Reproductive Intent.
hESCreg is actively working to ensure that these fundamental ethical principles are met when hESC lines are registered and assures appropriate ethical governance of its activities through an Ethics Advisory Board comprising European experts in the field of ethics.