Here you will find links to authoritative writing and user-friendly policy papers on topics such as when life begins, emergency contraception, and stem cell research.  Download BDF Bioethics Briefings on topics such as Gestational Surrogacy and Three-Parent Embryos.  In addition, we provide links to the excellent reports of the 2002-2008 President's Council on Bioethics. These are ideal resources for legislators, educators, reporters, students, policy makers, or for anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of these important issues.
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BDF Bioethics Briefings: Science and Policy in the Service of Human Life

     Does a particular bioethics practice that seems to provide a benefit really entail often hidden harms to human health and well-being?  Download user-friendly policy papers that have persuasive and fact-based legal bullet points, along with scientific white papers that explain the biology and health dangers in readable terminology.

     Learn about topics such as Gestational Surrogacy as a new form of human trafficking, and Three-Parent Embryos, which is human cloning to create genetically modified human babies.

               *  Download BDF Bioethics Briefings here



Stem Cells and Development journal. "Totipotency: What it is and what it isn't"

As science progresses in the field of stem cell research, there is considerable confusion, both within the scientific community and in the general public, about what is, and what is not a human embryo.  Are stem cells embryos, as some have claimed?  Do we need to worry about reprogramming accidentally going "too far" and producing embryos in the laboratory?  What about human cloning?  What about human twinning?   Dr. Maureen Condic addresses these and other important questions in an article entitled:  "Totipotency: What it is and what it isn't," published in the globally recognized journal Stem Cells and Development

This is a rigorous scientific analysis by Dr. Condic, a scientist and professor of embryology and neurobiology at the University of Utah School of Medicine, yet it is written in plain language that can be understood by the educated non-scientist.  The full paper can be downloaded for free here:   


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  • Review a layperson's version of the article on Public Discourse.
  • See other links related to this article here.


White Paper. "The Stem Cell Debates: Lessons for Science and Politics," A Report of the Witherspoon Council on Ethics and the Integrity of Science


The debates over stem cell research during the last decade have been among the most heated controversies in the history of science — touching on fundamental questions concerning the governance of science and the moral status of embryonic human life.


The entirety of the Winter 2012 issue of The New Atlantis is devoted to a major report on the stem cell debates, a comprehensive and up-to-date account of the scientific facts and the moral, political, and legal stakes. This is the inaugural report of an important new body, the Witherspoon Council on Ethics and the Integrity of Science.



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White Paper. "Emergency Contraceptives & Catholic Healthcare"

whitePaper_2011The question of the licitness of providing “emergency contraceptives” to victims of sexual assault who present in the emergency rooms at Catholic hospitals is a critical matter for evaluating and developing appropriate protocols for sexual assault victims. An examination of the available scientific studies demonstrates that the most common emergency contraceptive—Plan B, generally administered to prevent ovulation—at times may fail to prevent conception from taking place and instead may prompt an early abortion. This necessitates answering the question of when, and under what circumstances, it is morally licit to provide contraceptive medications to sexual assault victims while avoiding the potential outcome of prompting an early abortion.



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White Paper. "When Does Human Life Begin?: A Scientific Perspective"

whitePaperResolving the question of when human life begins is critical for advancing a reasoned public policy debate over abortion and human embryo research. This article considers the current scientific evidence in human embryology and addresses two central questions concerning the beginning of life: 1) in the course of sperm-egg interaction, when is a new cell formed that is distinct from either sperm or egg? and 2) is this new cell a new human organism—i.e., a new human being? Based on universally accepted scientific criteria, a new cell, the human zygote, comes into existence at the moment of sperm-egg fusion, an event that occurs in less than a second. Upon formation, the zygote immediately initiates a complex sequence of events that establish the molecular conditions required for continued embryonic development. The behavior of the zygote is radically unlike that of either sperm or egg separately and is characteristic of a human organism. Thus, the scientific evidence supports the conclusion that a zygote is a human organism and that the life of a new human being commences at a scientifically well defined “moment of conception.” This conclusion is objective, consistent with the factual evidence, and independent of any specific ethical, moral, political, or religious view of human life or of human embryos.



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Reports by The President's Council on Bioethics (2002-2008)

Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry

Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness

Being Human: Readings from the President's Council on Bioethics

Monitoring Stem Cell Research

Reproduction and Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies

White Paper: Alternative Sources of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells

Taking Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society

Human Dignity and Bioethics: Essays Commissioned by the President's Council on Bioethics

The Changing Moral Focus of Newborn Screening: An Ethical Analysis by the President's Council on Bioethics

Controversies in the Determination of Death: A White Paper by the President's Council on Bioethics

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