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Studies in Law and Medicine

Redefining the Issues in Fetal Experimentation

Americans United for Life published “Studies in Law and Medicine” in the 1970s and 1980s, spotlighting issues pertaining to the human right to life across the bioethics spectrum. As Americans United for Life celebrates our 50th anniversary, we are making these issues available for the first time since their print publication.

Redefining the Issues in Fetal Experimentation by Eugene F. Diamond, M.D.

The medical profession has a crucial responsibility to patient advocacy. More and more, doctors are losing the public’s trust as inhumane trials and experiments continue to be uncovered. These highly questionable trials are rarely investigated but deserve attention because the rights of aborted children and mentally ill children must be defined before they are violated. Therefore, a proposed Illinois law seeks to indicate that experiments done to promote or preserve the life of the experimental subject are not to be abandoned for the sake of “progress.”Research is not restricted by guidelines, but often advanced as a result of public trust. Responsible opponents of inappropriate fetal experimentation have not opposed the taking of fetal blood samples in reasonable amounts. Non life-threatening procedures will not be prohibited, but it is crucial to specify that no experiment is worth the life of a human, no matter how much progress there is to be made in the medical field.  

When it comes to parental consent for fetal experimentation, abortion law complicates the matter. Arguments which are proposed under the rubric of the “woman’s right to her body” usually unscientifically and erroneously define the fetus as a part of the woman’s body rather than a resident in the woman’s body. In either event, so such claim can be made by the woman for control over an infant placed outside of the woman’s body by an abortion procedure. The basis for child-abuse laws is traceable to English Common Law: a parent may not consent to anything that injures his child. The decision as to what constitutes legal proxy consent to non-therapeutic experimentation is likely to remain with the courts irrespective of any medical body’s decision.  

Philosophical camps disagree on the intrinsic and extrinsic value of a human life. Is is justifiable to harm an “unwanted” child for the benefit of society? We reject utilitarianism and agree with this statement in the proposed HEW policy on Protection of Human Subjects: “no research should be permitted on a fetus to be aborted that could not be permitted on one to go to term.” The unethical use of aborted experimental subjects is attributable to an infinitesimal percentage of researchers in this field. The establishment of reasonable controls over fetal experimentation need not pose a threat either to medical progress or to the responsible investigator.