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Research using human embryonic stem cells raises an array of complex ethical issues, including, but by no means limited to, the moral status of developing human life. Unfortunately much of the public discussion fails to take into account this complexity. Advocacy for liberal and conservative positions on human embryonic stem cell research can be simplistic and misleading. Ethical concepts such as truth-telling, scientific integrity, and social justice should be part of the debate over federal support for human embryonic stem cell research. Moreover, the debate should be conducted in accord with principles of deliberative democracy, including respect for people holding competing views.