Scientists Could Soon Create Artificial Humans...
Is it ethical to do so?
Scientists working with stem cells have recently found ways to assemble stem cells that will organize themselves into embryo-like structures. Soon, they may be able to create organs in this manner and beyond that even, essentially, artificial human beings called Sheefs (Synthetic Human Entitites with Embryolike Structures).
Sheefs could end up being so complex as to have beating hearts and rudimentary human brains and would most likely be used for drug testing, but this possibility raises a lot of ethical red flags. Dr. John Aach, whose team has been researching Sheefs, is concerned about the guidelines that would need to be put in place for ethical Sheef research in the future. For example, it would be unethical to create a Sheef that could feel pain, but scientists may not have a guaranteed way to know that a Sheef could not feel pain.
We're going to have to get a lot of input from a lot of quarters. The problems are just too big. We need to address this now, while there's still time.
While some scientists feel that it would be too difficult to ethically create and research using Sheefs, others feel that it would be similar to stem cell research that creates embryos that is already being conducted and could be created in adherence to the 14-day rule that is currently in use. The 14-day rule says that scientists can only work with embryos created in a lab within 14 days of creation, which is not difficult to adhere to, since the longest scientists have so far been able to keep one alive is 13 days. Most, however, remain skeptical that Sheefs can be ethically used once created, since they would likely last longer, and since scientists would probably want to study them past, 14 days.
It gets pretty tricky out there. They've opened the door to a lot of tough questions.
But now, we would like to know...