Rethinking Human Embryo Research Policies


  • Matthews K. R. W.,
  • Iltis A. S.,
  • Marquez N. G.,
  • Wagner D. S.,
  • Robert J. S.,
  • De Melo‐Martín I.,
  • Bigg M.,
  • Franklin S.,
  • Holm S.,
  • Metzler I.,
  • Molè M. A.,
  • Taupitz J.,
  • Testa G.,
  • Sugarman J.


It now seems technically feasible to culture human embryos beyond the “fourteen‐day limit,” which has the potential to increase scientific understanding of human development and perhaps improve infertility treatments. The fourteen‐day limit was adopted as a compromise but subsequently has been considered an ethical line. Does it remain relevant in light of technological advances permitting embryo maturation beyond it? Should it be changed and, if so, how and why? What justifications would be necessary to expand the limit, particularly given that doing so would violate some people’s moral commitments regarding human embryos? Robust stakeholder engagement preceded adoption of the fourteen‐day limit and should arguably be part of efforts to reassess it. Such engagement could also consider the need for enhanced oversight of human embryo research. In the meantime, developing and implementing reliable oversight systems should help foster high‐quality research and public confidence in it.

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