The stem cell story is not a simple story but a complex narrative: one that requires careful analysis in order to identify major themes and plots. This paper offers an analysis of the ethics of the clinical application of stem cells and argues that even quite risky therapies can be ethical. These arguments cannot be used to justify all aspects of contemporary stem cell science, including human embryonic stem cell science, which remains theoretical and speculative. It is argued that the homogenisation of stem cell science obscures the distinction between clinical application and experimental laboratory science in a morally problematic way.
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Competing interests: None.
↵i The instrumental use of others in medical science is clearly subject to the Declaration of Helsinki caveat that the interests of the individual are above the interests of science and society.
↵ii While it may be inappropriate to apply contemporary standards of informed consent to Rock’s work it nevertheless raises issues resonant in contemporary contexts in which, for example, embryo donors are not straightforwardly autonomous, informed, altruists.
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