Regulation of stem cell research in Finland

Human embryonic stem cells can be derived legally from excess IVF embryos for up to 14 days after fertilisation.

Current legal position

Stem cell research in Finland is regulated by the Medical Research Act 1999/488.  The act allows research on embryos that are left over following fertility treatment for up to 14 days after fertilization.  After this, the embryos must be destroyed.  The act also allows for embryos to be frozen for up 15 years, after which destruction must follow.  The creation of embryos for research is banned unless specifically for finding new cures and treatments for serious diseases.  The act defines an embryo as “a living group of cells resulting from fertilization not implanted in a woman’s body.” Hence somatic cell nuclear transfer is not forbidden in this law.

Ethical and regulatory oversight

The Finnish National Advisory Board on Research Ethics was founded in 1991 to advise the government and inform the public about ethical issues raised by science and technology, including stem cell research.  The body licenses all stem cell projects taking place in the country. In 2005 it recommended changes to the Medical Research Act 1999/488 to allow embryos to be created for research, as the act is unclear on this point.  The 2001 Act on the Medical Use of Organs and Tissues states that embryos can be used only for fertility treatment or medical research.  The 2001 Act also regulates the collection and licensing of human tissue and umbilical cord blood cells.

Relevant laws, policies and links

Researched by

Sean Small

Reviewed by

Outi Hovatta