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Title: Stem cell research : a critical study of the thought of John Harris, Mary Warnock and H. Tristram Engelhardt in the light of Christian holistic anthropology
Author: Kerasidou, Angeliki
ISNI:       0000 0004 2685 4856
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2009
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The primary concern in this thesis has been to examine the moral status of the embryo and whether it is morally justifiable to use embryos as research material. This has been the topic of a fervent debate in the area of bioethics for the last decade. Proponents of embryonic stem cell research proclaim the paramount importance of such research and they argue for the use of embryos in research, on the ground that they are not persons and hence, they do not have a moral worth. The opponents of embryonic stem cell research, on the other hand, insist that embryos are persons and have full moral value as a result of their humanity, therefore embryos should never be used as mere means. I believe the moral status of human embryos needs not be an 'all-or-nothing' issue. Although, embryos lack most, if not all, the characteristics of personhood, they still have something that can award to them a basic level of moral worth that is integral to their humanity. This thesis argues for the intrinsic moral value of human embryos in virtue of their intrinsic nature. First, I look at the advances of biomedical research and all the possible future benefits of stem cell research. Then, in order to reveal the intrinsic nature of human embryos and consequently human beings, an anthropological theory that takes into account the complexity of human life is required. In search for such an anthropological account a critical appraisal of the thought of John Harris, Mary Warnock and H. Tristram Engelhardt is undertaken. In contrasting the thought of Harris and Warnock, difficulties arising from their understanding of human nature have been seen to be problematic, mainly their inability to distinguish between the terms 'full moral value' and 'intrinsic moral value'. In contrast, Engelhardt being a Christian theologian, proclaims the holistic anthropological theory that is to be found in the Christian traditions. However, he argues that such an anthropological theory is not tenable outside the Christian edifice. I show that contrary to Engelhardt's view, holism can be justified not only theologically but philosophically and scientifically. I suggest that holism better captures the fundamental nature of human beings and hence, can lead us to a more accurate assessment of the moral status of the human embryo. I conclude that the deliberate creation and destruction of human embryos is morally wrong, especially when other alternatives for the continuation of this type of research are widely available.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available