Do Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Resolve the Ethical and Legal Issues Generated by Human Embryonic Stem Cells?
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The field of stem cell technology has seen an exponential growth over the last decade. Due to this, little attention has been paid as to whether this new technology adequately improves on previous research models, or indeed if it causes any ethical or legal issues itself. Of particular interest is whether Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells resolve the ethical and legal issues which have been generated by Human Embryonic Stem Cells. The ethical issues of note relate to the definition of personhood and moral status, the debate on when these can be ascribed, the consequences of utilising embryos for research, and whether the new method of inducing pluripotency stimulates any ethical issues itself. The central legal issues revolve around the diverse regulations which guide current research around the world, legal definitions regarding a child’s right to life, whether such a right exists, the scope of consent, the limits of confidentiality, as well as whether current patent guidelines adequately stimulate research into this important area of medical development. The expected outcome of this exploration is that where induced pluripotency may appear to alleviate most of the ethical issues raised by human embryonic stem cells, the same may not be affirmed to a similar extent in the legal sphere, rather it is suggested that the employment of this new alternative method of creating stem cells may complicate the legal matters further. It is recommended that further investigation to harmonizing legal definitions as well as updating current regulations occurs, in order to avoid the exploitation of potentially vulnerable groups of the population.