In previous editions of this encyclopedia, the topic of embryo research was included within the entry on fetal research. However, during the latter part of the twentieth century the issues arising from research involving in vitro fertilized embryos became sharply distinguished from issues in research with already-implanted fetuses. Moreover, new technologies such as the development of embryonic stem cells and the possibility of human cloning raised new ethical concerns in relation to research involving human embryos.
This entry will address the history of human embryo research, public policy on embryo research in the United States and internationally, moral considerations, particularly the debate on the moral status of the human embryo, and the relevance of ethical distinctions that have been proposed, such as the distinction between research use of surplus embryos versus embryos created specifically for research.
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