Vaccines and the fetus
After the abortion referendum in Ireland, ethical debates on the treatment of fetal material loom on the horizon. George Winter weighs the influence of the Church against the medical advances
The vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, which previously banned abortion, righted a long-standing wrong. The vote also vindicated the principles of autonomy and justice, which according to McCarthy et al (2018: 1)—who outlined recent developments in public discourse on abortion in Ireland— ‘are at the centre of social and democratic societies around the world.’
Although the focus is now on translating the will of the Irish people into legislation, other challenges may be looming on the ethical horizon. One source of debate could be whether it is acceptable to use fetal material, which would otherwise be destroyed, in medical research, and one might anticipate that the potential rise in abortions could lead to an increased interest in this area of research.
An early example of the possible conflicts that can arise is provided by a case involving Professor Leonard Hayflick—one of the great pioneers of cell culture in the 1950s and 1960s—and the Vatican.
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