From treating cancers to regenerating brain tissue after strokes, stem cells are arguably the most defining medical innovations of the century. However, all that innovation brings with it a growing set of ethical questions.
As logic would have it, answers to these questions should vary in societies of different geographical locations, cultures, social structures, and faith systems. However, voices of specific societies are not invited to share their perspectives, especially those of the Muslim world.
To fill this resounding gap in stem cell debates,The Ethics Thinking Group formed. The group’s members, including SASTA President Dr. Rana Dajani, are of different nationalities and disciplines of expertise. But they all share the goal of advocating for better representation in stem cell discourse.
Providing a comprehensive overview of the predicament, the publication starts by highlighting the significant role of Muslim scientists in the evolution of modern science and mathematics, before colonialism intervened.
The publication then pinpoints an example of how current stem cell ethical guidelines, majorly shaped by Western Christian beliefs, conflict with Islamic views. The 14-day rule, stemming from the US and the UK yet enforced internationally, prohibits the growth of in-vitro embryos longer than 14 days after fertilization. However, since some Muslim scholars postulate that embryos acquire souls 40 days after fertilization, Islamic interpretations could allow the use of human embryos for research purposes for up to 40 days.
Rethinking stem cell guidelines to align with Muslim frameworks will require action by leaders in multiple contexts. Accordingly, the publication shares how policymakers, scientists, lawyers, ethicists, journalists, and religious scholars could come together to achieve progress.