Ethics

Most countries of the world have not yet specifically addressed stem cell research in their legislation. Their regulations governing human embryo research will indirectly cover stem cell research, but this legislation varies widely from country to country. One of the ISCF’s key objectives is to help facilitate international harmonisation of ethical issues relating to use of stem cells in biomedical research.

The Forum’s Canadian member organisation, the Canadian Institute of Health research, has set up an ethics working group on behalf of the Forum. The working group’s remit is to identify the ethical issues concerning stem cell research that are emerging throughout the world, and how these might best be addressed.

The working group is also developing a global ethics ‘landscape’ document that will detail the ethical/legal policy of different countries regarding stem cell research.

Ethics Working Party

Mandate:

  • Identify, discuss and analyze ethical and policy issues involved in stem cell research.
  • Develop and maintain an overview of the ethical-legal policy of different countries regarding stem cell research.
  • Facilitate international dialogue on ethical issues relating to stem cell research.
  • Foster the identification of shared ethical principles to guide the conduct of stem cell research and policy- making.

Context:

  • Recognition of political and cultural diversity
  • Recognition of the need to distinguish different types of stem cells

Activities (2004-2005):

During the first year of activities the EWP and its Academic Secretariat pursued the following objectives:

  • Provided advice on the legal and ethical issues involved in stem cell research for the EWP and the ISCF.
  • Developed a comparative 50-country study of emerging patterns in the regulation of cloning and human embryonic stem cell research.
  • Prepared and submitted for publication an analytical article on the 50-country comparative policy study.
  • Provided advice on issues raised by member countries and by the ISCF.
  • Gave oral briefings/presentations at national and international conferences on the EWP’s ongoing work.

Upcoming Activities:

The EWP secretariat has started organizing the next meeting to be held on January 11th -12th 2006 in Paris, France. According to our mandate, the meeting’s agenda will focus on the development of a “Points to Consider” for the ethical conduct of stem cell research, as well as discussing the rationale for a registry for clinical trials involving human stem cells in order to facilitate international collaboration.