The moral status of the embryo: | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 41, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2542-6583
  • E-ISSN: 2590-3268



The aim of this paper is to determine the licitness of research on human embryos by suggesting an answer to the question of their moral status. The paper begins by considering and rejecting various indirect ways of determining the licitness of embryo research or the status of the embryo. These are rejected in favour of tackling directly the question if and when embryos are to be treated as persons. Arguments based on the notions of nature, potentiality and history are developed for the conclusions that a. personhood can be taken back into embryonic life and b. that embryos cannot be considered as persons until some of the early stages of embryonic development are completed. These arguments are also intended to show the links between Aristotelian ideas about the animation of the embryo and certain strands in contemporary philosophy. Research on embryos is then arguably licit prior to the completion of early stages of development.


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