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January 30, 2009

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Why shouldn't ethics apply to scientific research? Aren't embryonic stem cell researchers appealing to ethics when they claim so many lives could be saved through their research, and that it would be unethical to hinder their progress?

Embyonic stem cell reasearchers want to tease away cells from frozen embryos, less than five days old, that would otherwise be thrown away at in vitro fertilization clinics. They simply want those cells that are in the 'discard pile.' I see no reason why cells that are on their way to the dumpster cannot be used for finding cures to diseases.

For everyone who considers the embryo as a complete human being with the same rights as all of us (maybe not driving, voting, or rights of that sort), please consider this:

1. 50-80% of fertilized embryos die before becoming an infant. According to your reasoning, that is millions of deaths which occur each year, naturally, and yet we act as if it doesn't happen.

2. Question: If a building is on fire and you had the option of saving a crying infant, or a tank of thousands of frozen ('full-potential human') embryos (which could be frozen indefinitely), which would you save?

3. Consider, many of the embryos researchers want to do work on are NOT capable of implantation, and hence could NEVER lead to a child. Why not research on those?

4. 400,000 embryos are currently frozen in the United States. Of those, less than 90 have become "snowflake" babies. The rest will either be thrown out or expire and become useless. Why not research on those?

5. We know that embryonic stem cells have amazing potential to become any cell in the body. Why? Because they did it with each and every one of us.

6. Question: If your child was in a car accident and fell into a brain-dead vegetative state, why pull the plug and waste a perfectly good research opportunity? Think of all the good that could come from experimenting someone who's headed for the dumpster anyway?

correction: "experimenting on someone who's headed for the dumpster anyway."

You're begging the question of "What is it?"

If these fertilized embryos are indeed 'someone' not 'something,' you're argument could be used to justify scientific experimenting on all sorts of people.

Why, instead of executing condemned prisoners don't we experiment on them? They are going to die anyway?

Why stop with the condemned? We can take an unwilling, perfectly healthy person off the street and force him to donate all of his vital organs to those waiting for organs to survive. I mean, sure, you'd lose 1 person, but think of how many you could save?

Surely if this is about numbers, why would you object to the death of one man, however innocent, if from the loss of one we can save many!?

Pseudo, Robert and Mijk are exactly right. All of what you say depends on whether or not the embryo is a human being. Here's what your reasoning looks like when applied to human beings:

Nazi researchers want to use Jews who have been in the camp for less than five days, that would otherwise be eliminated in the gas chambers. They simply want those people that are in the 'discard pile.' I see no reason why people that are on their way to the dumpster cannot be used for finding cures to diseases.

We don't kill humans for experiments. Period. Even if they're about to die. Nor should we put them in a position where they're "on the way to the dumpster."

Amy,

"We don't kill humans for experiments. Period."

To my utter horror, we do indeed.

I'm glad that I won't be around when the history books will be written about his era. It's going to make Nazi Germany look like pre-dinner cocktails compared to this systematic holocaust of an entire segment of our human population.

Could someone tell me what advances have occurred with the use of embryonic stem cells as opposed to the advances with adult stem cells?

From what I've heard embryonic cells have not let to any break through while the use of adult cells have had quite a bit of success.

I think that the central problem the researchers have in this field is a fixation on the flexibility of embryonic stem cells. They are utterly fascinated at the degree of flexibility these stem cells exhibit. However, they seem to fail to realize that this "flexibility" is like blood typing. It must match the patient as closely as possible for it to be effective. The embryo is a far more flexible organism than an adult in terms of drastic developmental stages it can go through. When you combine this factor along with the problem of rejection in embryonic stem cell therapies, you find that this research field is a scientific dead-end. The only thing that fuels it is this irrational fixation on the "flexibility" of embryonic stem cells without careful consideration of the end result you are trying to achieve. If this was not the case, this science would abandon embryonic stem cell research and focus on the more promising adult stem cell research.
I think I understand the problem with the mindset here. When you are constantly focused on theoretical possibilities, as is the case in scientific research, it is easy to loose sight of practical realities and limitations of your field and anything that fuels your zeal for the actualization of the theoretical will blind you to the limitations of the practical. It is positivism gone wild.

Pseudo,

"Embyonic stem cell reasearchers want to tease away cells from frozen embryos, less than five days old, that would otherwise be thrown away at in vitro fertilization clinics. They simply want those cells that are in the 'discard pile.'"

Let's say that's true. What if they truly find millions of uses for the things. We'll need more embryos. Lot's more.

Les,

They recently repaired a larynx with embryonic stem cells -- but they also did it with adult.

IIRC, the score currently stands at something like 100-0-1 (1 tie).

ChrisB,

I would be interested in seeing sources on the ESC repair of a larynx. I am aware of only one case, involving adult stem cells.

Pseudo,
Regarding 2. Question: If a building is on fire and you had the option of saving a crying infant, or a tank of thousands of frozen ('full-potential human') embryos (which could be frozen indefinitely), which would you save?

I'll go one better for you...
Let's say the crying infant is my son or daughter, (as some on the various versions of this tired challenge go) vs. saving a roomful of adult missionaries, I'd save my child. Let me repeat, I'd save my child. However...regardless of my choice, this scenario does nothing to refute the fact that your frozen embryos are fully human. It only sets out to say "See, even you pro-lifers don't really think human embryos are real humans." Which is not the true case at all. It's a diversion tactic that comes up short every time. The result you'd likely claim doesn't match up with the initial argument.

(Hey,...Just for fun sometime, ask a PETA member what they'd do if it was a kitten versus a thousand frozen human embryos.)

David Hawkins

I think that the folks out there who present the argument you responded to are confusing an emotional reaction with a value judgment. Of course we are going to be more responsive to those we are close to. If it was a choice between a friend and a stranger, I would choose a friend. I think that we have given enough examples here to establish a certain pattern that moves away from a value judgment and toward the issue of relationship. We are not so much making a personal value judgment as we are a judgment on the value of a relationship that we share. Because we place a higher value on that relationship, we are more likely to save that individual. We are making a value judgment, but not the one that is suggested by the scenarists who propose this bogus dilemma. It is bogus because no judgment of the value of a human life is involved in the final decision to save your own son over your neighbors or your own daughter over a frozen embryo. It is all about a shared relationship and its value.

This is why this whole line of argumentation totally misses the point.

Psuedo
adult stem cells have proven to be amazing and provide amazing results.

So, assume that taking those cells does not kill, but seriously compromises the health of the adult from whom the cells are taken.

Should we take those cells from people on death row? Should we take them from people in a vegetative but stable state - even if there is no reason to medically entertain the notion the state will never be reversed.

Do you take those cells? If not, why not.

Patrick

It would seem to me that you are playing catch-up with your studies on this field. Adult stem cells can now be made from the patient himself and does not require a separate donor. Therefore, your situation may not now or in the very near future exist as a real possibility. I must assume that you didn't know this. If you did, I would have to ask you to honestly re-examine your motives for even presenting such an example.

Hi Louis
I do not see that your point has any bearing on the scenario that I presented. A hypothetical does not need an actual referent in order that the point of the hypothetical bear on the subject at hand. There is no error in logic at all that I see. Besides all that, is not bone marrow transplant a form of stem cell? Surely that donor activity is ongoing.

The salient point is that of personhood as I am sure you aware.

I do not know where you are coming from with the suggestion to re-examine my motives.

If anyone else reading this sees an error in logic or reasoning in keeping with Luis' retort, I would gladly entertain your argument.

"Hi Louis
I do not see that your point has any bearing on the scenario that I presented. A hypothetical does not need an actual referent in order that the point of the hypothetical bear on the subject at hand."

Could you be more specific as to how the adult donor's life could be in jeopardy by donating the cells? Is this even a realistic possibility? I'm just asking. I don't know the answer.

If this is an unrealistic example with no ties to what "could" happen, what's the point in making such a "purely_fictional_hypothetical" case?
I think that even a hypothetical should be in some way tethered to reality for it to be relevant.

I think that it tethers to reality (I like that phrase by the way!) by way of its reference the value of a human being. I am likening the person on death row or the one in a vegetative state to the embryo discussed above. The reaction one might have to the suggestion that we jeopardize the well being of either of the two hypothetical person groups is what I am getting at.

To make it more real, suppose that rather than discussing stem cells we discuss organs. Suppose a kidney is need by a person with a rare blood type and the prisoner on death row is a match - a life saving match. Should he be forced against his will to give up that kidney - it won't even kill him. Or, should we take the kidney from the person in the vegetative state without her consent. She will likely never miss it.

I hope that clarifies, although I insist that my first hypothesis still covers the relevant basis, especially inasmuch as I offered the bone marrow example.

Pat

Pat
"I think that it tethers to reality (I like that phrase by the way!)"

Ok...thanks. Please feel free to borrow it any time you wish. :)


" by way of its reference the value of a human being."

I agree that this is a tether, but with the qualification that it is thread thin. I just don't think that it can carry the weight of the argument.

" I am likening the person on death row or the one in a vegetative state to the embryo discussed above. The reaction one might have to the suggestion that we jeopardize the well being of either of the two hypothetical person groups is what I am getting at."

I think that more is at stake in this discussion than the well being of the individual in question. In the case of ESCR we are talking about a life and death situation and not just the well being of an individual. Both have moral ramifications, but the life and death issue carries the greater moral burden. This is why it demands our more careful and serious consideration.


"To make it more real, suppose that rather than discussing stem cells we discuss organs. Suppose a kidney is need by a person with a rare blood type and the prisoner on death row is a match - a life saving match."

I agree with you that this example more closely matches the scenario of harvesting embryonic stem cells, making it more relevant to the present discussion.

" Should he be forced against his will to give up that kidney - it won't even kill him."

No. It would certainly be illegal and I don't believe it can be morally justified.

" Or, should we take the kidney from the person in the vegetative state without her consent. She will likely never miss it."

Taking a personal possession of another without their consent, is theft. It makes no difference if the theft is undiscovered by the victim or if the victim cares about the possession lost or not. It, by definition, qualifies as theft and we both know that theft is not morally acceptable. That the theft benefits the thief, does not justify it. That someone else does the stealing as a proxy on behalf of the individual that benefits from the theft does not justify it either. Simply placing an evil deed inside the wrappings of the good meant for the benefit of another does not transform that evil into good. Although it might make it look that way if you don't bother to unwrap the package and look to see what is really inside.


"I hope that clarifies, although I insist that my first hypothesis still covers the relevant basis, especially inasmuch as I offered the bone marrow example."

Feel free to do so, but I respectfully disagree on the grounds that ESCR takes a life when the embryo is cannibalized for parts and taking bone marrow stem cells does not...to the best of my knowledge.

Its funny how adult stem cell research is getting some results but embryonic research has not.

Everyone seem to be rooting for embryonic stem cell research because they think it has alot of potential.

The ban lifted by Obama was pretty big news for scientists. It means they will have more funds for stem cell research, both adult and embryonic. The ban itself was not really a ban. George Bush didnt really ban it. He just didnt provide funding for it. It was a moral issue.

Now with the approval by Obama, Stem cell might finally be able to get some spotlight and get some better results.

This is probably one of the very few times that fox news isnt bias on certain issues.
Usually they arent this fair. I am glad fox is doing somewhat of a job providing fair news.

If you want to read more about stem cells, check out Stem Cell News.
They provide pretty up to date stem cell news.

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