How to Rethink the Fourteen-Day Rule

Sarah Chan
In a column for the Hastings Center Report, bioethicist Sarah Chan opens up for discussion whether the 14-day rule could be revised, as it “was not intended to be set in stone” (2017:5). Her arguments put aside concerns about a slippery slope, because moral principles are not being readjusted; the 14-day limit did not establish a “moral bright line” (2017:5) and did not assess when or if embryos acquire moral status. She also reminds us that the 14-day rule was not based on consensus about the embryo’s moral status, but a way of achieving an acceptable position in a pluralistic society. This leads her to ask if it is time to forge a new compromise that recognizes the role of both scientific expertise and ethical argumentation, as well as the importance of public participation in decision-making. Revisiting the rule should begin from the premises that consensus may not be reached and that public discourse may disagree with moving embryo research further, but it should enable “exploring the possibilities of a new public bioethics” (2017:6).