Friday, September 22, 2006

Bioethicist Debunks Term 'pre-embryo'

The McCormick professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, [Robert P.] George was appointed to the President’s Council on Bioethics in 2002. He has spoken and written numerous books and articles on law, ethics and philosophy.

[Regarding embryonic stem cell research,] George noted that a human embryo is not something subhuman, such as a rock or a rhinoceros. "It is a whole living member of the species homo sapiens, in the earliest stage of his or her development," he said.
. . .
"Some people have suggested the blastocyst stage is not an embryo, but something that’s sometimes called a pre-embryo," said George. In fact, some supporters of Amendment 2 have used that term.

George discounted the use of the word, noting that the greater scientific community rejected its use several years ago, adding it’s more commonly used for political purposes.

In 1996, Dr. Ward Kischer, a human embryologist at the University of Arizona, wrote a letter to the nomenclature committee of the American Association of Anatomists, asking that the word "pre-embryo" should be rejected from inclusion in the Terminologia Embryologica, the official lexicon of scientific terminology used in the field.

"He was concerned some were trying to depict early human embryos as something other than what they are — namely individual members of the human species in the embryonic stage of development," said George.

In 2001, the committee decided to reject the words "pre-embryo," "pre-embryonic" and "individuation."

"The reason is simple. The term pre-embryo has no scientific basis for validity," said George. "There is no such thing as a pre-embryo. From the zygote stage forward, what exists is a human embryo."

"But to deny that embryonic human beings deserve full respect, one must of course propose that not every ... living human being deserves full respect," he said.

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