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Keywords:

  • embryo;
  • stem cells;
  • ethics;
  • killing;
  • assisted conception

Abstract: The main objection to human embryonic stem cell research is that it involves killing human embryos, which are essentially beings of the same sort that you and I are. This objection presupposes that we once existed as early embryos and that we had the same moral status then that we have now. This essay challenges both those presuppositions, but focuses primarily on the first. I argue first that these presuppositions are incompatible with widely accepted beliefs about both assisted conception and monozygotic twinning. I then argue that we never existed as embryos. If this last claim is right, killing an embryo does not kill someone like you or me but merely prevents one of us from existing.