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Risk stratification: an important tool in the special review of research using oocytes and embryos
  1. G Owen Schaefer,
  2. Teck Chuan Voo
  1. Centre for Biomedical Ethics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to G Owen Schaefer, Centre for Biomedical Ethics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore; medgos{at}

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Like all research, embryo research can take a variety of forms, some posing substantially more risks to persons than others. Savulescu et al argue persuasively that regulatory regimes specially designed for sensitive embryo research should differentiate between person-affecting and non-person-affecting embryo research, with substantial scrutiny only warranted for the former.1 Yet if we find Savulescu et al’s argument persuasive, what practical implications would it have?

In this commentary, we focus in particular on how such an argument might apply in Singapore, one of the jurisdictions with special regulations for embryo (and oocyte) research. We will summarise the way in which approval for oocyte and embryonic research operates in Singapore, and suggest that Savulesc et al’s distinction requires specification to be useful in such contexts. We propose adopting a risk-stratified framework similar to that employed with Institutional Review Boards (IRBs). This requires a wider view of risks than the focus by Savulescu et al on future persons. We then illustrate how such a framework would apply in five scenarios discussed in Savulescu et al.

Singaporean context

Research with embryos and oocytes is regulated in Singapore under the Human Biomedical Research Act.2 Enacted in 2015, this law sets out requirements for consent, IRB review and research oversight. By definition, all research involving gametes and embryos fall within the remit of the Act. Moreover, such research is defined as ‘restricted’; besides the Act, research involving oocytes and embryos is also subject to control under the Human Biomedical Research (Restricted Research) …

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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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