Stem cells

Stem cells offer the possibility of major advances in healthcare but research is controversial because the cells are often derived from embryos.

A discussion paper on the key ethical issues, based on discussions held at a round table meeting, was published by the Council in April 2000.

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Human tissue

Medical and scientific uses of human tissue include organ transplantation, pharmaceutical testing and genetic research.

The Council published a report in 1995 proposing an ethical and legal framework for the use of human tissue.

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Human tissue - Terms of reference

The terms of reference were as follows:

1. To survey and report on the current and prospective medical and scientific uses made of sub-cellular structures, cells and their products, tissue and organs hereinafter referred to as human tissue;

2. To give some account of developments in research and exploitation of tissue, identifying current and potential benefits and current and potential difficulties;

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Human tissue - Human tissue: UK developments

There has been wide debate in the UK about the use of human tissue since the publication of the Council's report, Human Tissue: ethical and legal issues. Follow the links below to find out about developments in the field since the report's publication.

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Human tissue - Chapter downloads

You can download the individual chapters of this report using the links below. (All files are PDFs and less than 600 KB)

Chapter 1 - Introduction

Chapter 2 - Public concerns

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Stem cells - Further conclusions and recommendations

We do not consider that concerns about inappropriate incentives resulting from a potential benefit deriving from the establishment of an EG (embryonic germ) cell line are so great that the donation of fetal tissue for such purposes should be prohibited.

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Stem cells - Key findings

The ability to culture human stem cells long term, and possibly indefinitely, and to control how such cells specialise to form the different tissues of the body offers the possibility of major advances in healthcare.

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Launch of consultation on human bodies in medicine and research

The Council launched a public consultation on human bodies in medicine and research on 20 April 2010.

The Working Party is seeking people's views on a number of questions, including:

  • How far should we as a society go in encouraging or even incentivising people to provide material?

  • What control should a person providing material have over its future use?

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Can we ethically increase organ, egg and sperm donation?

Should more people be expected to donate organs, eggs and sperm and, if so, how far can we ethically go in encouraging them to donate, asks the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in a consultation launched today. The Council is calling for the public’s views on how we should respond to the current demand for organs, sperm, eggs and other human material for use in medical treatment and research.

Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern, the Chair of the inquiry, said:

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