The subject of human fetal tissue transplantation has recently become the focus of major public policy debate. In March 1988, Dr Robert Windom, Assistant Secretary of Health, clearly focused the issue for the biomedicai community by prohibiting the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md, from conducting intramural research on the transplantation offetal tissue pending the recommendation of a special advisory committee.
Fetal tissue has long been utilized for biomedicai research. The development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s could not have been accomplished without the ability to utilize human fetal kidney cells. Whole fetal thymus transplantation for the treatment of DiGeorge's syndrome resulted in few ethical discussions. In contrast, the recent attempts at treatment of Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and diabetes, with fetal tissue transplants, have raised numerous ethical, moral, and legal questions.
It is interesting to speculate why the issue of fetal tissue transplantation has evoked so much