German ethicists can’t agree on humanized animals

The German Ethics Council (Deutscher Ethikrat) has recommended that researchers be allowed to insert human genes into mice in a major report on human-animal mixtures. But special permission will be needed to insert human genes into apes. Some practices should be banned, it says: introducing animal material into human germlines, producing human sperm or eggs in an animal, and implanting animal embryos into humans.

However, on the highly controversial creation of cybrids (or chimeras), or growing embryos by inserting the nucleus of a human cell into an animal egg, the Council failed to reach a consensus. No German laws appear to cover the procedure, which some researchers hope to use to produce embryonic stem cell lines. Thirteen members of the council recommended that scientists should be allowed to do it; 11 were opposed.

The German report covers much the same ground as one issued by the UK’s Academy of Medical Sciences in July and reaches similar conclusions. However, the analysis in the two reports is remarkably different, perhaps reflecting a British penchant for utilitarian analysis and a continental preference for a more reflective, metaphysical analysis. The Germans seem to take the notion of a distinctive human dignity much more seriously. An English translation of the report seems to be something worth waiting for. ~ Science Insider, Sept 27

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