Q. I believe that the Law Reform Commission does not recommend legislation to ban the creation of human embryos for research purposes. What is the Jewish view?
A. Research on foetal material is permitted by Jewish law, but only if the foetus is dead (in such cases there is no absolute requirement of burial though burial is highly desirable in order to protect human dignity). However research may not be carried out if the foetus is alive, though therapeutic procedures for the benefit of the foetus are permitted. Judaism does not approve the creation of embryos for the purposes of research and would limit research to so-called “spare embryos”. On this and many other bioethical issues a valuable guide is “Practical Medical Halacha” by Fred Rosner and Moses D. Tendler.