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Research ethics
Embryonic stem cell research is not dehumanising us
  1. L Klostergaard
  1. Correspondence to Louis Klostergaard, Department of Science Studies, Faculty of Science, Aarhus University, C F Møllers Allé, DK-8000 Aarhus C; louis{at}


It is not possible on naturalistic grounds to argue either for or against an entity such as the human embryo having full moral status and deserving our fullest moral attention. In addition, it is difficult to see the point of asserting this moral status. Instead of citing nature as the grounds for demarcating moral status, perhaps it would be better to look at the decisions and activities that demarcate nature and establish the nature–culture gap. Our decisions and activities are expressions of our understanding of ourselves and I would like to argue that when considering the human embryo the real question we should be asking is what kinds of actions are dehumanising us.

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • i I refer to Ronald Dworkin for a further and much more original exposition of a challenge model, without citing him in support of my reading of such a model.

  • ii The European Patent Office ruled on 27 November 2008 against the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s application to patent a method to derive stem cells from undifferentiated cells of human embryos, on the grounds that the patent contravened the common morality clause.