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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 February 2006, 09:53 GMT
Conflicting laws hinder research
Stem cells (AP)
The researchers believe that current international laws are confusing
Conflicting national policies in embryonic stem cell research hamper international collaboration, leading scientists and ethicists have said.

They have called upon scientists, journals and funding bodies worldwide to set an international ethical standard for research in this area.

The recommendations were made at a three-day international conference in Cambridgeshire, UK.

The researchers hope the measures will enable international collaboration.

In essence, articulating ethical standards will enable scientists to collaborate internationally
Julian Savulescu, Oxford
About 60 leading researchers from 14 countries - including scientists, philosophers, bioethicists, lawyers, clinicians, journal editors and regulators - took part in the meeting.

The delegates have now formed the Hinxton Group, an interdisciplinary consortium on stem cell ethics and law, which will meet regularly to further discuss these issues.

"Stem cell research is an area constantly under a microscope, in terms of the public's interest in it," said Professor Ruth Faden, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University, US, and a member of the Hinxton Group.

"At the same time, scientists are very concerned to conduct themselves in an ethically responsible way, and it's not clear always how to do that in the face of conflicting laws."

International ethical codes

Recommendations the group propose include:

  • getting journals to ask researchers to include statements confirming their research conforms to national guidelines
  • a public website for international researchers to share information about research codes and ethical protocols
  • an attempt to reach an international ethical consensus on new areas of research, including the creation of human-animal chimeras
"Across the world there are some countries with very restrictive legislation like Germany, and there are some countries with very vague policies like China," said Professor Julian Savulescu, an ethicist at Oxford University, and a member of the newly formed group.

"In essence, articulating ethical standards will enable scientists to collaborate internationally."

The conference brought into sharp focus many of the issues raised by the recent South Korean stem cell scandal.

An investigation found researcher Hwang Woo-suk had "intentionally fabricated" his work on cloning and human embryonic stem cells. He was also accused of using unethical means to obtain eggs for his group's studies.

S Korea cloning research was fake
23 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China approves stem cell bank
11 Dec 02 |  Science/Nature

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