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Embryonic stem cells: the disagreement debate and embryonic stem cell research in Israel
  1. F Simonstein
  1. F Simonstein, Department of Health Systems Management, Yezreel Valley College, DN Emek Yezreel 19300, Israel; fridas{at}


While some people claim that the present disagreement over embryonic stem (ES) cell research cannot be resolved, others argue that developing transparency and trust are key elements that could resolve the existing disagreements over such research. This paper reveals that transparency is not necessarily a requirement for advancing ES cell research, since in Israel, for instance, there is (almost) no transparency, and research nevertheless flourishes. Moreover, trust is not independent of cultural values and religious beliefs. Because of these beliefs, the environment in Israel for ES cell research has been pragmatic and liberal. The Israeli case illustrates the key role that culture and religion can play in biomedical research; it also suggests that as far as cultural values or religious beliefs of people in Western countries strongly oppose research on embryonic tissue, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to overcome the disagreements.

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  • Competing interests: None.

  • i Stem cell publishing data compiled by the Bibliometric Analysis Unit of the Central Library, Jülich Research Center, by reviewing titles, abstracts and keywords of more than 6 000 natural science journals tracked by the Science Citation Index of Thomson Scientific.1

  • ii For instance, the “father” of IVF in Israel has recurred to the antiabortionist rhetoric of “any unborn baby is a murdered child”, meaning that fewer cycles of IVF do signify fewer children born. Also, because of the deeply embedded memories of the Holocaust, such rhetoric has proved very effective; the two-IVF-children scheme was not revoked.

  • iii This resulted in a new scandal. An Israeli physician set a global network of fertility clinics (Global ART) to export and import ova. Under this scheme, eggs harvested from women in Romania are sold to American and Israeli women. The Romanian women are paid some modest amount of money for their eggs. Two Romanian women who sold their eggs under this scheme appealed to the European Court of Human Rights because when complications arose the clinic just ignored them.11