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Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research: An Argument for National Research Review

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The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently published voluntary guidelines for human embryonic stem (hES) cell research. The NAS guidelines propose two levels of oversight. At the local level, research institutions are to create Embryonic Stem Cell Research Oversight (ESCRO) committees with a mandate to assess the scientific merit and ethical acceptability of hES cell research. At the national level, a new committee is to be created, not to review specific research proposals, but rather to periodically assess, and as needed revise, the NAS guidelines. In this article, we critically assess this proposal. In particular, we review the benefits and limitations of local research review. On this basis, we argue that local review is insufficient for hES cell research and that while there are obvious pragmatic and political reasons for the NAS to favor local research review, there are more compelling reasons for the NAS to have recommended national review of hES cell research proposals.

Keywords: IRB; public policy; research ethics; research ethics committees; stem cells

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03605300600848136

Affiliations: 1: Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy, Intellectual Commons, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 2: Center for Biology and Society, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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