Rick Wiess of the Washington Post and Nicholas Wade of the NY Times both report on an online article at Nature.com about a method to create nonviable embryos for embryonic stem cell research. An example cited in the articles is the creation of an embryo that lacks the specific gene to develop a placenta; therefore, the embryo cannot implant and develop. From one viewpoint (a viewpoint supported and advocated by William B. Hurlbut, a Stanford University professor and member of President Bush's Council on Bioethics) this avoids the destruction of a viable embryo, and therefore, ethically permissible. From another viewpoint, this is the equivalent of "purposeful creation of fatally hobbled beings to use as research subjects" and is therefore ethically impermissible.
While this discussion is very interesting and may lead to a compromise in the current stalemate on federal government sponsored ESCR, one question still remains to be discussed: What of the status of the women providing the embryos?