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J Med Philos. 2004 Oct;29(5):509-32.

How traditions of ethical reasoning and institutional processes shape stem cell research in Britain.

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  • 1ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4RJ, England.


This article aims to show how the traditions of ethical reasoning and policy-making shape stem cell research in Britain. To do so I give a detailed account of the earlier developments of regulations on embryo research and the specific scientific advances made in Britain. The subsequent regulation of stem cell research was largely predetermined by those structures and the different and partly opposing orientations of a utilitarian approach to policies on biomedicine. The setting up of the first stem cell bank and the directing of public funding into not only bioethical but also sociological guidance of the development of the new science field are aspects of the particular British way of supporting stem cell research. However, there is also an ongoing philosophical and juridical debate on the possible erosion of fundamental values caused by incremental regulatory weakening. Although I am highly sympathetic to the critical position that there is a need for a metaphysical anchor to secure individual human rights, one has to admit that the British mode of handling the inevitable ethical problems we face with biomedical progress is rather successful in terms of securing some of the basic needs and values of a modern democratic society.

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