Concerns about eroding the ethical barrier to in vitro eugenics: lessons from the hESC debate.
In his discussion of in vitrogametogenesis, Rob Sparrow claims that an ethical barrier to development of this technology is that many jurisdictions currently prohibit the practice of creating embryos solely for the purpose of research. However, he suggests that this ethical barrier will soon be eroded, in view of the fact that in vitro gametogenesis could serve as a powerful new technology to overcome infertility. In this commentary, I argue that Sparrow is being overly optimistic in his analysis here. I claim that the debate over so-called compromise positions in the human embryonic stem cell debate suggests that the purpose of the research for which a research embryo is created is unlikely to be considered as having any significant bearing on the moral permissibility of the practice for those who oppose it. Even though in vitro gametogenesis could serve as a powerful new technology to overcome infertility, I argue that opponents of the practice of creating embryos solely for research purposes would still view the creation of research embryos that the development of in vitro gametogenesis would require, as being incompatible with affording the embryo proper moral respect. I conclude by suggesting that Sparrow's analysis of the potential benefits of in vitro gametogenesis provides us with further reasons to scrutinise the unconvincing arguments that are often cited in favour of prohibiting the practice of creating embryos solely for research purposes.