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Ethicist says embryo breakthrough is a ‘step towards an inhuman future’

Researchers have kept embryos alive in a laboratory for 13 days

Researchers have discovered a way to keep human embryos alive in laboratories for longer, paving the way for experimentation on embryos beyond the current legal limit.

Previously, embryos grown in laboratories have not lived past nine days – the stage at which an embryo needs to an implant in order to survive.

But scientists at the University of Cambridge have discovered a way to keep embryos alive beyond that point. The embryos were allowed to die at 13 days, because the current law does not permit them to live beyond 14 days.

For the first time, it is now scientifically possible to transgress the 14-day limit, which may lead to pressure to extend the legal time period.

In a report published in the journal Nature, the researchers said their observation of the embryos suggested that “events at this stage of human development are embryo-autonomous, highlighting the remarkable and unanticipated self-organizing properties of human embryos”.

The director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Professor David Albert Jones, said in a statement that the scientists “have shown how embryonic human beings live and develop with a life that is their own from the very beginning. Even at the embryonic stage, the human organism is a living, autonomous being, a self, a wonderful life that can be sustained or can be destroyed.

“It is a dark irony that they learned this through experimenting on and destroying these very same remarkable self-organizing human lives.”

Professor Jones said that the technique would lead to more experimentation on human embryos, and might even be a step towards “culturing babies outside the womb, where the child is not only conceived outside the protection of his or her mother’s body but no such human connection is envisaged at any stage.”

He added: “Human life and human pregnancy should not be separated in this way. On a technical level this experiment represents a breakthrough but it is also a further step away from ethical science and a further step towards an increasingly inhuman future.”


1 comment

  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Why is it unethical? Because the souls of these embryos went to Hell?
    The catechism indicates that the default for those who aren’t baptized is Hell as salvation is said to be impossible without salvation – the church says it knows of no other way. Of course they could have gone to the unofficial Limbo where they sit just above Hell avoiding the anguish and suffering of those with mortal sins – such as mastubation – but they are still denied salvation through no fault of their own. We are allowed to “hope” that Catholic God is not a monster and decides to save them, but this is a very vague hope, given the rest of the catechism concerning Hell, baptism and original sin.
    If the souls of the embryos went to heaven and were saved, then of course no harm was done – right? They accomplished what we are all supposedly here to do, only they went from starting line to winner’s circle without running the race or throwing the salvation dice. Had they been grown to full babies, and then chosen to be Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or (gasp!) atheists, then they would go to Hell; so far better of them to go straight to heaven.
    The problem we have here is that a) there is no harm done, or b) there is tremendous harm done by a vicious, unfair, unjust god in denying the completely innocent and helpless soul of these embryos (or any other infant that dies without baptism) salvation; and any god who would do such a thing is hardly deserving of worship!
    Or far more likely, there is no soul as consciousness cannot exist without a brain, and there is no circuitry at the point these embryos were destroyed to support consciousness.

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