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Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog
We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Back to the Beginning
Came across this at The Speculist. The writer makes an interesting case for a moral consensus for stem cell research, one that could be palatable for less extreme abortion opponents.
Those who have argued that life begins at conception often point to the fact that conception is the first appearance of the DNA blueprint that will be used to make an individual human. In fact conception does produce DNA that is distinct from the parents, but it is not necessarily the DNA that will go on to make an individual human.
The key battleground is where society says that human life begins.
Clearly, both the sperm and egg are [living human cells] and they have the potential of being part of a new human, but few would offer legal protection to gametes. The crude and hilarious "Every Sperm is Sacred" song is effective satire because almost nobody would adopt that thinking...
Before differentiation a fertilized egg might fail to develop (as occurs when the fertilized egg is unsuccessful in attaching to the uterine wall - this happens about half of the time). Or the fertilized egg might become a single human. It could become two humans in the case of identical twins (natural clones). A fertilized egg might even become part of a human in the rare case of a chimera – where two fertilized eggs develop together into a single embryo.
If a fertilized egg has the potential in nature of being no human, part of a human, one human, or two humans, the destiny of a fertilized egg is objectively undetermined – much like the undetermined nature of the gametes that formed it.
After differentiation, an embryo has crossed an objective medical threshold. The individual that the embryo will develop into is now determined. The same thing cannot be said of the moment of conception.
Differentiation occurs very early in a pregnancy - at about ten days. This is a much more conservative definition of the beginning of human life than abortion-rights advocates would be willing to accept.
A person who accepts differentiation as the beginning of human life can be pro-life (anti-abortion) without the practical inconsistency of being against the research that could save countless other lives. This is not mere situational ethics. This is the sort of critical reexamination of ethics that new technology forces upon us. It should be of no consequence that Kass and company are unhappy with the arrival of this technology. The technology is here and we are going to have to deal with it.
Roe v. Wade
Stem Cell Fight!
Bush the hypocrite
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