Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics


Stem Cells, Sex, and Procreation

a1 John Harris is Sir David Alliance Professor of Bioethics and Research Director of the Center for Social Ethics and Policy, University of Manchester, and a Director of The Institute of Medicine, Law, and Bioethics at the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool, England

Sex is not the answer to everything, though young men think it is, but it may be the answer to the intractable debate over the ethics of human embryonic stem cell research. In this paper, I advance one ethical principle that, as yet, has not received the attention its platitudinous character would seem to merit. If found acceptable, this principle would permit the beneficial use of any embryonic or fetal tissue that would, by default, be lost or destroyed. More important, I make two appeals to consistency, or to parity of reasoning, that I believe show that no one who either has used or intends to use sexual reproduction as their means of procreation, nor indeed anyone who has unprotected heterosexual intercourse, nor anyone who finds in vitro fertilization (IVF) acceptable, nor anyone who believes that abortion is ever permissible can consistently object on principle to human embryo research nor to the use of embryonic stem cells for research or therapy.