At the Edge of Humanity: Human Stem Cells, Chimeras, and Moral Status

Experiments involving the transplantation of human stem cells and their derivatives into early fetal or embryonic nonhuman animals raise novel ethical issues due to their possible implications for enhancing the moral status of the chimeric individual. Although status-enhancing research is not necessarily objectionable from the perspective of the chimeric individual, there are grounds for objecting to it in the conditions in which it is likely to occur. Translating this ethical conclusion into a policy recommendation, however, is complicated by the fact that substantial empirical and ethical uncertainties remain about which transplants, if any, would significantly enhance the chimeric individual's moral status. Considerations of moral status justify either an early-termination policy on chimeric embryos, or, in the absence of such a policy, restrictions on the introduction of pluripotent human stem cells into early-stage developing animals, pending the resolution of those uncertainties.