Scientists’ Perspectives on the Ethical Issues of Stem Cell Research

Abstract

This paper describes findings from an ethics education project funded by the Canadian Stem Cell Network (SCN). The project is part of a larger research initiative entitled “The Stem Cell Research Environment: Drawing the Evidence and Experience Together”. The ethics education study began with a series of focus groups with SCN researchers and trainees as part of a “needs assessment” effort. The purpose of these discussions was to identify the main ethical issues associated with stem cell (SC) research from the perspective of the stem cell community. This paper will focus on five prominent themes that emerged from the focus group data including: (1) the source of stem cells; (2) the power of stem cells; (3) working within a charged research environment; (4) the regulatory context; and (5) ethics training for scientists. Additional discussions are planned with others involved in Canadian stem cell research (e.g., research ethics board members, policy makers) to supplement initial findings. These assessment results combined with existing bioethics literature will ultimately inform a web-based ethics education module for the SCN. We believe that our efforts are important for those analyzing the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) in this area because our in depth understanding of stem cell researcher perspectives will enable us to develop more relevant and effective education material, which in turn should help SC researchers address the important ethical challenges in their area.

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