Editorials

Regulating the collection and use of fetal stem cells

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.332.7546.866 (Published 13 April 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:866
  1. Julie Kent, reader in sociology (Julie.Kent@uwe.ac.uk),
  2. Naomi Pfeffer, professor of social and historical studies in health
  1. School of Sociology, University of West of England, Bristol. BS16 1QY
  2. London Metropolitan University, London

    They currently lie in a regulatory limbo

    The British government is committed to supporting stem cell science and industry.1 An important part of that commitment is a strong regulatory environment, seen as being embodied in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which oversees a strict but permissive regulatory framework and contains public concerns about the use in research and treatment of human embryos. However, the HFEA regulates only the use of embryos created in vitro. It has no jurisdiction over the use of aborted fetuses, which are still subject to guidelines drawn up 17 years ago and have been neglected in recent discussions around stem cell research.

    Sustaining in vitro a human embryo beyond 14 days is legally and technically impossible, so investigators seeking embryonic material older than 14 days usually collect it after abortion (or, less often, after miscarriage or surgery for an ectopic pregnancy). The collection and use of aborted fetuses has been governed …

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