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Stem cell research on other worlds, or why embryos do not have a right to life
  1. R Blackford
  1. Correspondence to:
 Russell Blackford
 School of Philosophy and Bioethics, Monash University, Wellington Road, Clayton, Victoria, 3800, Australia; Russell.Blackford{at}; russellblackford{at}


Anxieties about the creation and destruction of human embryos for the purpose of scientific research on embryonic stem cells have given a new urgency to the question of whether embryos have moral rights. This article uses a thought experiment involving two possible worlds, somewhat removed from our own in the space of possibilities, to shed light on whether early embryos have such rights as a right not to be destroyed or discarded (a “right to life”). It is argued that early embryos do not have meaningful interests or any moral rights. Accordingly, claims about the moral rights of embryos do not justify restrictions on stem cell research.

  • ethical theory
  • embryo research
  • right to life
  • stem cells
  • death

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  • i This is the tenor of Abortion and Infanticide.1

  • ii I owe this expression, “props for morality”, to Rachels.4