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Experimentation on Human Fetuses Prohibited - Essay Sample

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970 words
Sewanee University of the South
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Topic: The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Section 12J: Experimentation on human fetuses prohibited.Date: 17/ 01/ 2018


The above court decision of the General Court of Massachusetts deliberates on the intriguing issues about fetal life and dignity of the mother. It shades light in the ethical dilemma met when dealing with experiments with the fetus and the consent of the mother. Specifically, subsection (a) asserts that; "No person shall use any live human fetus whether before or after expulsion from its mother's womb, for scientific, laboratory, research or other experimentation (Section 12J, 2018). However, the law allows for the use of fetus for an experiment for as long as it is in the mother's womb. This makes a landmark in defining the moral grounds surrounding the dignity of the mother and the fetus. The law further prohibits the use of any dead fetus for experimentation under whatever circumstances. Subsection (a) II states that; "No experimentation shall knowingly be performed upon a dead fetus or dead neonate unless the consent of the parent or guardian (Section 12J, 2018).

However, the policy has loopholes in defining a dead fetus. It states that; A fetus is a live fetus for purposes of this section when, in the best medical judgment of a physician, it shows evidence of life as determined by the same medical standards . There is a general feeling that when the decision to define life or death is left in the hands of the physicians, who are also victims of the regulations, they may manipulate data to influence the definition. As such, we need a better standard of defining life and death without regard to the physicians opinions. As such, we need to define life in terms of the age of the fetus and the trimester it belongs to at the time of the abortion.


Experimentation with dead fetus mostly happens when there is abortion. This makes abortion laws intertwining with the policies of experimentation with the fetus. In many abortion laws, the physicians do not define life (Suh, 2014). A fetus that is in its second trimester is alive and any abortion taking place to this fetus, without any medical complication should be considered alive. In this regard, the policy above, when defining a dead or alive fetus should take into consideration the age of the fetus to augment the decision made by the physicians regarding the subject. When the decision to define the life of the physician is solely left for the physicians, they may tend to manipulate their decisions to suit any situation.

Ethical dilemmas exist in the medical fraternity regarding the use of stem cells for medical purposes. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015), the most reliable sources of these stem cells are the fetuses and the embryos (Jalali et al, 2914). It is important to clearly define when life begins in this legislation so that the law can fully protect the lives of such fetus whose mothers are willing to sell them for money. The use of stem cells for medical purposes is legal but the process of obtaining the stem cells may entail jeopardy in the lives of the embryos (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015). Hence, the law should be clear on what it calls life or no life. Up to the last decade, there have been controversies on defining when life begins until the medical fraternity settled on defining that life begins in the second trimester.

Stakeholder analysis

The stakeholders of this policy are the parents, the physicians and the civil societies and religious communities. The parents are the biggest stakeholders because they bear the lives of the fetuses and the survival of these species depend on their mercies. A parent may give a consent for the use of fetus for the experimentation, so long as the fetus is alive. Any policy change in this issue directly affects the parents. The civil societies and religious communities fight for the rights of both the unborn and the mother. They are parties in the definition of when life begins. The physicians, on the other hand, are the people who directly deal with the parents and the laboratory experiments where the fetuses are the main specimen. The policy demands high standards of ethics among the physicians.

Cost/benefits of the change

The change of this policy is majorly beneficial because it will guarantee stronger ethical considerations among the stakeholders as they deal with the unborn. It helps the physicians have better platforms for arguing their cases while the civil societies have points of references as they fight for the rights of the unborn. The cost associated with this policy change is the cost of time spent in the Congress to convince the majority to support it.


Stakeholders analysis

Stakeholder Role Description

Physician Use the fetus in the laboratories The physicians have the obligation of defining death or life according to the clause.

They partner with parents to provide the best outcome for the medical fraternity

Parents Bear the fetus He mothers together with the physicians collaborate to determine when and how to use the fetus for the experiment.

Give consent for experimentation with the fetus

Civil societies and religions Whistleblowers Blow the whistle whenever the medical society disregards the basic human rights conditions.



Jalali, M., Kirkpatrick, W. N. A., Cameron, M. G., Pauklin, S., & Vallier, L. (2014). Human Stem Cells for Craniomaxillofacial Reconstruction. Stem Cells and Development, 23(13), 14371451.

Section 12J. (2018). Retrieved 18 January 2018, from, S. (2014). Rewriting abortion: deploying medical records in jurisdictional negotiation over a forbidden practice in Senegal. Social Science & Medicine (1982), 108, 2033.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2015). Stem Cell Basics. National Institutes of Health


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