This is a multidisciplinary project with contributions from biology, medicine, philosophy and theology.
The background for the project are the developments going on within the fields of basic and clinical research on and clinical use of human stem cells. These new biotechnological possibilities have lead to an intensive ethical debate in many countries, especially in Europe and the USA, dealing with a broad spectrum of new ethical dilemmas. A central point in the ethical discussions and in the political d ebates of the legislators has been the question of how to handle stem cells from human embryos, available in various ways.
The main problem raised in this project is therefore: What is the moral status of human embryos with regard to use of embryonic stem cells in scientific research and clinical therapy, and what are the weakness and strength of various opinions and positions when they are critically evaluated?
The project consists of two central elements: The first element is an updated presentation of the current knowledge of the state of research and therapy within the field of stem cells and what seem to be its near future developments. This will be done with special regard to embryonic stem cells and compared to stem cells from other sources (foetus , cord blood and adult individuals).
The second element is the philosophical and theological, ethical discussion of what is meant by moral status and what is this status of human embryos with regard to use of embryonic stem cells in research and therapy. This will include an overview and evaluaton of existing positions and arguments in various philosophical and theological tradition. The discussion will also take into account the different ways in which embryonic stem cells are available, the use of embry onic stem cells compared to stem cells from other sources, the moral status of medical research itself and the relation between respect for embryos and life-saving and suffer-reducing medical progress.