Is-24: Islamic Ideas about Moral Status of Human Embryo


Omani Samani R *,

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Research on human embryo is a controversy in around the world and there are different ideas about it according to different religions. Assisted reproductive techniques and production of numerous embryos, which can be cryopreserved for years, has raised a complex situation about using human embryos in research. Embryonic stem cells and hope of treatment of incurable disease made it even more complex. Iran is the only Islamic country that practices gamete and embryo donation programs and also has human embryonic stem cell lines. Basic points are respect, individuality and personhood of the human embryo. Here, I presented some Islamic idea about the moral status of human embryos, using the embryos in research and therapeutic abortion. The presentable Conclusion are as follows: 1. Pre implantation embryo is not considered as human or potential human and can be used in research with the permission of the owners of the embryo. Islam has the border of implantation for considering the embryo as a potential human. Before implantation, embryos are just respectable because they have human origin like human organs.2. Individuality of the embryo is not a religious issue. Biologically, after 14 days the embryo cannot split and make identical twins, its three layers are appeared and begins to form the neural system. So, the 14 days of embryo's age is the border of individuality. 3. After implantation, although the embryo is not considered human, but is respectful. Any manipulation of embryo in the uterus or abortion in any gestational age is considered a sin and has its own penalty. 4. Personhood in many religions is related to the human soul, so, ensoulment time is considered the border of personhood. After 120 days (for Shiaa Muslims) and 50 days (for Sunni Muslims), it is believed that ensoulment of the fetus happens, so fetus is considered a complete human, and no abortion is allowed unless the mother,s life is in danger. The personhood time is different between religions like after birth for Judaists, conceptions for Catholics and 14 days for some protestants. 5. According to shiaa decrees, before ensoulment, the therapeutic abortion is allowed if there is an absolute medical reason. Therapeutic abortion is defined as when the fetus has abnormalities or diseases or the pregnancy has a great burden for the mother. The basis of this decree is the burden of a disabled child on the parents and the society and also the suffer of child itself. If the life of the mother is in danger, pregnancy termination is allowed in any gestational age.