Friday, July 21, 2006

Part 2: Embryonic Stem Cell Research

This is a continuation of Part 1: Embryonic Stem Cell Research and it is recommend to read the 1st part first.

To summarize, if you believe organ donation is morally right and in vitro fertilization as it is done presently is morally right then you ought to believe embryonic stem cell research can be morally acceptable. That's because organ donation takes advantage of people's deaths which happen regardless, which is comparable to how embryonic stem cell research takes advantage of the destruction of embryos; and in vitro fertilization results in embryos that are going to be destroyed anyways and thus provide a source of embryos.

In August 2001, President Bush stated he would permit federal funding for embryonic stem cell research using lines of stem cells from about 70 embryos left over from in vitro fertilization. Research involving new lines could not receive federal funding. The first thing to address is why this line of about 70 is not enough. Although theoretically the cells could divide ad infinitum, over time defects enter in, which is what happening. So, limiting research to just these 70 is causing problems in carrying out effective research.

Secondly, what did this compromise accomplish. I would say it accomplished nothing, not that in the world of politics things have to make sense to be done. The problem is that these stem cells are coming from destroyed embryos. Now if it alright to use these embryos from before a certain date then there is no reason why embryos couldn't be used from after that date as they are the same thing, embryos. If you can use embryos before date x, then why not day (x +1). And if you can use those from day (x +1), then why not (x+2)... Do moral laws change from day to day? No.

The reasoning behind this 'compromise ' was to ensure that embryos aren't created with the purpose to be destroyed for research. But in vitro fertilization is still going on, so there is still a source of embryos that are going to be destroyed that weren't created for the purpose of being destroyed. I will grant that care must be taken to ensure that the embryos used were created for the legitimate purpose to allow a couple to have children, but that doesn't mean it can't be done.

The line Bush drew in the sand was pointless. It neither truly addressed the moral question nor does the scientific one. If the destruction of embryos is wrong then it took advantage of that wrongful act, and if it isn't then it hurt scientific research.

There are adult stem cells, why don't we use those? Basically, they're not as malleable as stem cells from embryos. What about stem cells from umbilical cords? I have to admit, this one perplexes me, since plenty of babies are born each day in the US which come with umbilical cords for free. Why don't we just use these and avoid all the controversy? Could it be all the Democrats who support embryonic stem cell research also abort all their babies and so they never get umbilical cords? Maybe, but probably not. (Yeah, I went there.)

So in conclusion, a belief in the moral rightness of organ donation and in vitro fertilization as done today necessitates a belief in the moral rightness of embryonic stem cell research. Bush's compromise of using a limited number of stem cell lines from before a certain date does nothing. (Actually, I have to take that back. It does appease some of the right wing even though it is illogical.) However, we should make sure the embryos used only were created without he intent to be implanted. But we could avoid controversy by using umbilical cords.

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