Embryo Research Ethics

Robert George, Christopher Tollefsen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen argue that human beings have fundamental dignity and basic rights (“human rights”) in virtue of the kind of entity they are—creatures bearing a rational nature. The indicia of a rational nature are the basic natural capacities—which obtain from the point a rational creature comes into existence—for thinking, deliberating, and choosing, whether or not these capacities are immediately exercisable. All human beings, including those who are asleep, or under general anesthesia, or who are in deep comas or persistent minimally conscious states, are bearers of a rational nature. The same is true of those suffering even severe cognitive disabilities. A person with advanced Alzheimer’s disease, for example, has not undergone a change of nature—he is not a creature different in species or otherwise different in kind from what he was before the onset of the disease. Bearers of fundamental dignity and basic rights, which includes all human beings, must not be treated as mere objects or instruments by, for example, subjecting them to damaging or deadly experimentation designed for the benefit of others. So the question at the heart of debates over human embryo research is the empirical one, fully accessible to inquiry using scientific methods of analysis: Is the human embryo, from the formation of the zygote forward, a human being, viz., a living member of the species Homo sapiens. George and Tollefsen assess the evidence and conclude that the answer to that question is unambiguously yes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPhilosophy and Medicine
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePhilosophy and Medicine
ISSN (Print)0376-7418
ISSN (Electronic)2215-0080

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Health Policy
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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