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Good News About Stem Cells

Here's an article by Bioethics Council member Robby George that explains both why the recent hype is bogus and why it's still the case that the good news is that current ethical dilemma involving the killing of embryos to acquire pluripotent stem cells probably is specific to a stage of scientific development about to be surpassed.
Categories > Bioethics

Discussions - 6 Comments

Sorry we are not rejoicing with you up here about this piece of good news, or analysis and explanation of the gruesome news from earlier this week, might be the more correct way to put it. We are still arguing about when human life begins, down below.

Ahhh, who cares ...

I mean, human life is cheap and since there is no God or god, then there is nor morality, no right no wrong, no good or evil, no responsibility, nothing, but existance.

Seriously, that is what this is about, the bigger picture, isn’t it?

What, you think that is over the top or beyond the pale?

Then what is this debate about, because it isn’t about when life begins, that is known and moot!

Exceprt from the article ...

"We are opposed only to practices that harm or destroy human embryos — who are, as all the leading works of modern embryology attest, human individuals at the earliest stage of development."

Again, what is this debate truly about?

Dale, That point is well worth debating. And it’s not going to surprise you that all or even a majority of the members of the President’s Council agree with it. Here’s one problem: Robby tends to conflate Aristotelian, Christian, and Lockean thought as if it were seamless web. But to say the least, it would not be self-evident to Locke that embryo is an individual with rights, and Aristotle doesn’t talk about rights or even individuals at all. So two big issues: Is Robby persuasive? Is there a more persuasive way of making his case? But, Dale, I’m sure glad that someone actually read the darn article and noticed how, from one view, how extreme and self-confident Robby is. Here someone might bring in some of Bill McClay’s criticism of those who believe they are doing battle with "the party of death." Kate, Your great comments about when life begins etc. should be introduced here too.

It’s early! In the previosu post "agree with" means that a majority of the President’s Council don’t share Robby’s confidence that the embryo is an individual from the earliest stages.

Thank you, Peter, you are very kind. Being tired after a long day, or maybe just too lazy to think this all out concisely, I cut and paste the arguments Peter refers to above, down here for easier viewing, limiting the discussion to our most pertinent material:

I said:
People and animals are not the same. This seems easy to me. And going back, at what point is a human not human? What seems more likely, the day before birth, or the day before conception? Or does Abbie know of the day, the particular day, that falls somewhere between the two? Please, tell me what is "real" here. What was that 8-celled mass going to be, before it was destroyed?

When you take a pregnancy test and want the subsequent child, you do not say, "I have an embryo!" You are excited and happy that you are going to have a baby, and refer to "it" as such. People speak of "making a baby". They never say, "Let’s make a blastocyst tonight, honey." Could some women go into monthly production doing this? Why not?

Nat Hentoff, a humanist and certainly no fundamentalist, wrote thisand has been writing and speaking against abortion for years. It is not just a Christian issue. It is, or ought to be, a human issue.

No death certificate would be filed because no birth certificate would have been filed, because we are not talking about a birth, just a delivery, or not even that. Usually, it is just a mess; a molar pregnancy, and nobody at all. Sometimes it is somebody, and you see him. Sometimes when women miscarry, they do bury the remains, if allowed. Some women have, or would appreciate funerals. Having had two miscarriages, I can tell you, grief happens.

I do not know about taking a blastomere if there is truly no harm done, but surely, Peter’s big point, above, beats this deal.

Incidentally, we do not take tissue even from the dead without prior permission.

Comment 6 by Dale Michaud

When does a human start developing as a unique entity?

According to logic and also human embryology, it is with conception.

So, the destruction, ie death, of an embryo is the death of a human life.

Then John Moser said:

....As I understand it, death is considered to occur when brainwaves stop. If this is the case, have we not determined that brainwaves are the defining characteristic of human life?

Comment 11 by Kate

John, Brain waves and death is one thing, but your embryo is not dead, is it? This is the beginning and not the terminus of a life; something forming and developing. Brain wave activity begins in about week 6, but you must be talking about something living for that to happen at all.

Comment 13 by John Moser

Kate, is "living" a synonym for "human"? Each sperm cell and egg cell is a living thing, but we wouldn’t think to assign human rights to either of them, would we?

Comment 14 by Kate

John, No, and no. Egg and sperm, are not important at all, no more than any ofmthe other living cells in the human body, to which I would not assign human rights. Yet, all of those human cells, in aggregate, might be you or I, and we both agree on our human rights. But combine those two and you are no longer talking about egg and sperm, but what? The immediate transformation of those separate entities into a body of rapidly dividing cells that become - what was it again? Oh yes. If it is human egg and sperm, then it is a human being.

Is that human zygote just some living collection of cells, growing, like a cancer in the body? Is it something to be removed because useless and even harmful to the body it inhabits? No. It is a forming human, whom I would dignify with human rights even though entirely vulnerable and incapable of human responsibility for some time. I ask again, at what point in the development of a human, going back, is the embryo NOT human?

Comment 15 by John Moser

I return to my original point. If we conclude that a fair way of determining the end of human life is the point of brain death--that is, the failure of the body to emit brain waves--why do we not use that as our standard to determine its beginning? Even if I am wrong about growth of hair and nails after death, it is undeniably true that the body can go on "living" for a certain amount of time after brain death has occurred.

Comment 16 by Kate

John, Even the dead are still considered human. We speak of "human remains" and do not deny the humanity of the dead, which we all treat with dignity, in all cultures. Even if I use your concept, (use, but do not accept) that life begins with brain waves, would we not treat that embryo, pre-brain waves, with the respect due to a human, before brain waves, as we do the remains of the post-brain-waving human?

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