Is Performing Medical Research on Embryos Permissible?

07 July, 2020
Q What is the ruling on performing medical research on embryos, ova, and sperm to improve treatment and not for changing genetic traits?

Answer

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.


In this fatwa:

1- It is impermissible to conduct medical studies on an embryo in utero except for the purpose of maintaining its health, detecting early genetic abnormalities, or increasing the chances of keeping it alive in the event of any potential risk.

2- It is permissible to conduct experiments on an embryo if miscarriage occurs before life has been breathed into it or even after but only if it does not exhibit any signs of life.

3- It is permissible to conduct scientific experiments on ova and sperm provided they are not associated with something prohibited.


Answering your question, Dar Al-Ifta Al-Misriyyah, states:

Conducting medical research on human embryos

Conducting medical research on human embryos for purely medical purposes requires meticulous examination. It is crucial to be fully aware of the nature of these researches as well as any consequent risks and harms to the embryos.

Therefore, it is impermissible to conduct medical studies on an embryo in utero except for the purpose of maintaining its health, detecting early genetic abnormalities, or increasing the chances of keeping it alive in the event of any potential risk. Meanwhile, such medical researches must not involve any potential risk such as miscarriage nor cause harm to the embryo.

When the benefits of such researches are certain in the absence of potential risks and the parents’ permission is secured, then there is no objection to conducting medical researches on gametes and embryos to achieve general interest to man.

A panel of experts and specialists must be responsible for conducting these researches consonant with the regulations and recognized academic practices. It must also supervise the moral and ethical aspects of these studies.

Experimentation on miscarried embryos


The legal ruling concerning experimentation on miscarried embryos involves two cases. It is impermissible to conduct any kind of experiment on a miscarried embryo after life has been breathed into it i.e. after 120 days of gestation, and after it has exhibited signs of life after the miscarriage. This is because this would be antithetical to the respect that must be shown to the human body under Islamic law.


Islamic scholars have maintained that when an embryo exhibits signs of human life, it is to be washed, shrouded, prayed over, and buried like a complete human.

However, it is permissible to conduct experiments on an embryo if miscarriage occurs before life has been breathed into it or even after but only if it does not exhibit any signs of life. It is, however, absolutely necessary to secure the parents’ permission and there must be a preponderant interest from these experiments.

Experimentation on human gametes

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In principle, it is permissible to conduct scientific experiments on ova and sperm provided they have nothing to do with something prohibited. This includes fertilizing an egg with foreign sperm, creating embryos in an artificial environment for making use of their organs and tissues, or using them in human cloning experiments.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Source: Egypt’s Dar Al-Ifta