The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) guidelines replace the 14-day limit on embryo research with case-by-case review (see go.nature.com/3gf1kw8). Some scientists, ethicists and lawyers advocate keeping the limit (or a substitute). They contend that it avoids ethical and political minefields, boosts public confidence and minimizes confusion (see J. Johnston et al. Nature 594, 495 (2021); R. M. Green et al. Nature 594, 333; 2021). In our view, the 14-day limit fails to uphold the human right to benefit from science.
This right was first recognized in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “everyone has the right freely… to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”. According to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, limitations must be “determined by law” and “solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society”.
We maintain that the ISSCR guidelines respect this right: it is to everyone’s benefit to increase knowledge, identify the causes of miscarriage and congenital abnormalities and improve infertility treatments (see also A. Boggio et al. CRISPR J. 2, 134–142; 2019). Removal of a time limit ensures greater public debate on the governance of embryo research.
Nature 595, 494 (2021)
R.L-B. was Chair of ISSCR’s Task Force to Update the Guidelines. Z.M. and R.L-B serve on ISSCR’s Public Policy Committee and Z.M. is an ISSCR Goldstein Science Policy Fellow and Education Committee member.