Tag Archives: medical ethics

Why not hybrid embryos?

Recently, British MP’s voted to allow the creation of hybrid embryos for medical research. These embryos would be 99.9% “human” but 0.1% “cow” or “rabbit” — the animal element is simply the use of animal eggs, from which animal DNA is extracted, human DNA implanted, the “hybrid” embryo is then given an electric shock, and then stem cells harvested for use in research. All matter must be destroyed within 14 days. (Q&A on hybrid embryos can be found here.)

This move has been highly controversial for several reasons. Some of these reasons include the following:

1. It is morally wrong to mix human and animal DNA in this way.

This first reason is perhaps the primary reason behind opposition to this legislation. There are several problems with this argument.

First, what do we mean by “morally wrong”? It is easy to claim a position is “morally wrong”; it is difficult to prove a position is morally wrong in a compelling way. That is, deontologists and consequentialists can agree on many ethical issues, but they will not agree on all ethical issues. Who then decides? We would have to see the best arguments on both sides in order to see which view should prevail. It is no use to say that x is “morally wrong” without a full account of morality, not least as there are many different camps and what is wrong (and right) is not self evident.

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