Embryology Ethics of


University of Copenhagen

I. A Short Outline of the Development of the Human Embryo

II. Embryology and in Vitro Fertilization

III. What Is the Connection between Embryology and Applied Ethics?


abortion The termination of a pregnancy. Abortion can be spontaneous or induced.

conceptus, zygote, preembryo, embryo, fetus Developmental stages of the developing human being; see Section I.

embryology The science that studies the development of the embryo, fetus, etc., from just prior to conception to birth.

gamete A reproductive cell; sperm and eggs are gametes.

IVF In vitro fertilization, a technique developed to treat infertility. IVF involves the fertilization of ova outside of a woman's body. IVF is one of a range of techniques usually called the ''new reproductive technologies'' or ''assisted reproductive technologies.''

EMBRYOLOGY is the science that studies the development of the embryo, fetus, etc., from immediately before conception to birth (or hatching in the case of birds, fish, reptiles, etc.). Although the terms ''embryo'' and ''fetus'' denote different stages of the developing being, this is not reflected in the name of the science dealing with all these stages.

There is no separate science of ''fetology.'' The science of embryology contains both descriptive and explanatory elements; i.e., it describes the various development stages (their anatomy, physiology, etc.), but it also tries to unravel the mechanisms which control the development.

For the purpose of the present article embryology will be used as synonymous with human embryology.

Embryology is a scientific area where there are still large lacunae in our knowledge, but it is also an area of very rapid development. This means that some of the things we think we know today may very well be superseded by new discoveries in the coming years.

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