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Annas, Caplan, and Elias criticize Geron's Ethics Advisory Board

Genetic Crossroads
February 28th, 2000

Writing on "Stem cell politics, ethics, and medical progress" in
Nature Medicine (Volume 5, Number 12, December 1999), bioethicists
George J. Annas, Arthur Caplan, and Sherman Elias say that the
Geron Ethics Advisory Board report on human embryonic stem cells is
"more like `ethical cover'…than ethics that can be taken seriously."

The authors cite the report's "final ethical principle," which
states that all research on human embryonic stem cells "be done
in a context of concern for global justice." Their comment:

"The ethics board seems to recognize what few, if any, Geron
stockholders would concede: If only the rich are likely to benefit
from stem cell research, it should not be pursued at all as a matter
of social justice. This principle follows from ideas of respect for
embryonic and fetal tissue that permit its instrumental use only to
`alleviate human suffering and to promote the health and well-being
of human populations,' but obviously begs the question of whether
for-profit corporations can ever have this as a realistic goal or
how the company could be forced to adhere to this principle. As
stated in the context of a policy that seems to have been created
to provide an ethical rationalization rather than as an ethical
guidance for research, it is not likely that it can or will be
taken seriously."


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