Friday, December 2, 2022 - 8 Jumada al-Ula 1444

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Medical research on embryos and human gametes

What is the ruling on performing medical research on embryos, ova, and sperm for improving treatment and not for changing genetic traits?

Answer

The conduct of medical research on human embryos for purely medical purposes requires meticulous examination. It is crucial to be fully aware of the nature of these researches as well as any consequent risks and harms to the embryos. Therefore, it is impermissible to conduct medical studies on an embryo in utero except for the purpose of maintaining its health, detecting early genetic abnormalities, or increasing the chances of keeping it alive in the event of any potential risk. Meanwhile, such medical researches must not involve any potential risk such as miscarriage or cause harm to the embryo. There is no objection to conducting medical researches on gametes and embryos to achieve general interest provided their benefits are confirmed, there are no potential risks, and the parents’ consent is obtained.

A panel of experts and specialists must be responsible for conducting these researches consonant with the regulations and recognized academic practices. It must also supervise the moral and ethical aspects of these studies.

Experimentation on miscarried embryos

The legal ruling concerning experimentation on miscarried embryos involves two cases. It is impermissible to conduct any kind of experiment on a miscarried embryo after life has been breathed into it i.e. after 120 days of gestation, and after it has exhibited signs of life after the miscarriage. This is because this would be antithetical to the respect that must be shown to the human body under Islamic law.

Islamic scholars have maintained that when an embryo exhibits signs of human life, it is to be washed, shrouded, prayed over, and buried like a complete human.

However, it is permissible to conduct experiments on an embryo if miscarriage occurs before it is ensouled or even after but only if it does not exhibit any signs of life. It is however necessary to secure the parents’ consent and there must be a preponderant benefit from these experiments.

Experimentation on human gametes

In principle, it is permissible to conduct scientific experiments on ova and sperm provided they are not associated with something prohibited such as fertilizing an egg with foreign sperm, creating embryos in an artificial environment for harvesting their organs and tissues, or using them in human cloning experiments.

And God almighty knows best.