The ethics of embryo research and the 14-day rule
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 18:47 by Grant Castelyn
Recent advances in the field of developmental biology have enabled the culturing of embryos for 13 days, significantly longer than the previous record. Any further culturing is restricted by a widespread regulation on embryo research known as the ’14-day rule’. Following the announcement of the advances in in vitro culturing, there have been several calls from scientists and philosophers to revisit the rule, with many suggesting that an extension is appropriate. Arguments for an extension typically claim that research into later periods of embryonic development would lead to significant beneficial applications, easing the suffering and extending the lives of many. However, embryo research is still a contentious issue; concerns about the harms of embryo research which have been raised in the past, are being reiterated in response to the proposed extension. In this thesis, I consider the appropriateness of an extension. My analysis begins with an ethical evaluation of the grounds and justifications for the existing 14-day limit on embryo research. I then examine arguments for an extension and, in the final part of the thesis, consider some new developments in the field of embryo research which pose potential challenges for its regulation. I argue that there are strong reasons to support an extension to the current 14-day limit and outline an alternative criterion on which an amendment could justifiably be based.