Ethics in Biology, Engineering & Medicine | January 9, 2012Read the Publication
In the fields of law and policy, language can determine an outcome; thus, precision is as critical as it is in the laboratory. Since Louise Brown’s birth in 1978, the ability to create ex utero or preimplantation embryos through in vitro fertilization (IVF) has created opportunities for both parenthood and research that were previously impossible and almost unimaginable. The emergence of these transformative technologies have challenged existing medical paradigms and forced a reexamination of long-held legal principles. Use of preimplantation IVF embryos, with their ability to be formed outside a woman’s body, cryopreserved for indefinite periods of time before being used for procreation, tested for abnormalities through preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and potentially used for embryonic stem cell research, ultimately requires a critical rethinking and redefining of key concepts. This article focuses on a few of these critical terms, specifically fertilization, conception, and personhood, and the effect that acknowledging the legal and biological distinctions can have on preimplantation IVF embryos, embryonic stem cell research, and personhood initiatives.