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Future persons, future attributes and potential persons: commentary on Savulescu and colleagues
  1. Alexandre Erler
  1. National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alexandre Erler, Institute of Philosophy of Mind & Cognition, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, Taipei, 112, Taiwan; alexerler{at}

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Savulescu and colleagues propose a distinction between ‘future person embryo research’ (henceforth FPE research) and ‘non-future person embryo research’ (henceforth, NFPE research), which they hold can help decision-makers more efficiently discriminate between higher risk and lower risk embryo research.1 The authors’ proposed distinction does point to an ethically significant difference between different forms of embryo research, which they illustrate in an enlightening manner using a series of detailed case studies. In the following, I wish to comment, first, on the substance of the authors’ distinction, and second, on the possibility of looking beyond the relatively narrow scope of their argument.

A first point concerns the authors’ characterisation of FPE research as including ‘anything which is done to an embryo that will be or could be implanted into a woman’s uterus’. Insofar as they also emphasise the idea of research that can ‘affect’ a future person, this formulation might suggest that the key distinction here is between research procedures that causally impact the characteristics of a future person, and those that do not. However, this is not how the authors’ distinction between FPE and NFPE research should be understood. Indeed, they describe ‘observational research’, including the first test case they present (Time Lapse Imaging and Embryo Selection), as an exception …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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