Moral Status of the Human Embryo

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Philosophy Essay Is the human embryo a ‘Potential Person’ or a ‘Person with Potential’? For centuries, reproduction was considered to be the work of nature. People had no control over it because they did not have enough information about the process of reproduction to be able to moderate the number of children they had. The mentality of reproduction letting “nature” decide has changed because of advances in reproductive techniques. Nowadays human life can begin, not just in a woman’s womb, but also in a petri dish. Ova can be extracted from a woman through surgery and fertilized with semen and the resulting embryo can develop for some time in the laboratory. This process is called in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF/ET) This process has been developed so that couples with infertility problems can have children together anyway instead of adopting. The ethical problem is that, when this process is carried out surplus embryos are created and frozen just in case the couple would want to have children again in the future; this is done to avoid a second surgery on the woman. If, within a period of time, the embryos are not used, they are either destroyed or else donated for experimentation. This experimentation has resulted in experts being able to identify embryos which have genetic diseases and so when these are identified just before implantation back into the womb, only the healthy embryos are introduced. These advancements in biological technology have put the moral status of the human embryo into question. Is it wrong to experiment on or destroy unused fertilized ova? It is believed that the key question to understanding the moral status of the human embryo is: Where does human life begin? Any biologist will tell you that human life begins at fertilization, and that is scientific fact. So the real question is: Is the human embryo a potential person or a person with potential? There are 2 main issues surrounding this argument. The first focuses...
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