KIE Scholar weighs in on ethics of new embryo experiments

Senior Research Scholar Daniel Sulmasy was featured in a recent story on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A long-standing rule prohibits scientists from keeping human embryos alive more than two weeks, after which the central nervous system starts to develop. The 14-day rule was developed decades ago to avoid raising too many ethical questions about experimenting on human embryos. It’s a law in some countries, and just a guideline in the U.S.—a status that has generated considerable debate, further complicated by the fact that the rule was initiated when no one thought it would ever be possible to keep embryos growing in a lab beyond two weeks.

(Learn more about the 14-day rule from former KIE Director LeRoy Walters, one of the key thinkers behind its establishment decades ago, in this long-form NPR audio piece from Radiolab.)

Scientists, bioethicists, and others continue to debate the issue in the U.S., Britain and other countries: is it time to rethink the 14-day rule? Here’s a quote from Sulmasy on the topic:

“Pushing it beyond 14 days only aggravates what is the primary problem, which is using human life in its earliest stages solely for experimental purposes,” says Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, a Georgetown University bioethicist.

Read & listen to the entire story here:

Embryo Experiments Reveal Earliest Human Development, But Stir Ethical Debate

Ali Brivanlou slides open a glass door at the Rockefeller University in New York to show off his latest experiments probing the mysteries of the human embryo. “As you can see, all my lab is glass – just to make sure there is nothing that happens in some dark rooms that gives people some weird ideas,” says Brivanlou, perhaps only half joking.