Tinkering With Embryos Up To A Limit Of 14 Days Is Wrong. What Happens When The Limit Vanishes?

David Albert Jones and Michael Wee

As expected, last month the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) updated its guidelines for stem cell research. The marquee guideline is the relaxation of the limit of 14 days on how long a human embryo may be kept alive in a lab.

According to the ISSCR the update reflects emerging advances including stem cell-based embryo models, human embryo research, chimeras, organoids, genome editing and ectogenesis.

Even though these recommendations do not have the force of law, they are very influential and pressure will mount in key countries like the UK, the US and Australia to amend or abolish the 14-day rule. Bioethicists have been calling for a revision in a number of journals over the past few years. In this article David Albert Jones and Michael Wee of the Anscombe Centre for Bioethics, in the UK, comment on this development.

When the UK legalised experimentation on human embryos in 1990, it was promised that this would be subject to various “safeguards”:

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