Focus: Washington: A fragile compromise on embryo research?

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 08 October 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:900
  1. J Roberts

    Last week the National Institutes of Health took its first step towards ending a 15 year ban on funding research on human embryos. Supporters say it will eventually decrease birth defects. Opponents say it is murder.

    A 19 member ad hoc committee of the NIH has spent over a year reviewing the arguments. Although its members - scientists, doctors, ethicists, and others - came from all points of the philosophical spectrum, they reached a consensus on difficult issues. For example, the committee says that while a human embryo “possesses qualities requiring moral respect” it “does not have the same moral status as infants and children.”

    For 15 years, under Presidents Reagan and Bush, the NIH would not fund human embryo research because the Republicans were worried that antiabortion activists would threaten their fragile political coalition. Private …

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