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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.

I just found an interesting article by Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, President of the American Council on Science and Health. Dr. Whelan points out something that many of us involved in the stem-cell debate might not be aware of:
The primary problem here is that American consumers have been led to believe that if only President Bush -- or a Congress overruling him -- would allow federal funding for research on fertilized eggs from fertility clinics (ones which would otherwise be discarded), then we would be well on our way to cures for Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and a whole host of other maladies.

If you believe that making available the 400,000 fertilized eggs now in the freezers of medical facilities around the country will give researchers what they need to forge ahead with new breakthrough technologies, then of course you would applaud Senator Frist's announcement. And you would ask for no more.
I have to admit that I was one of those who believed that the 400,000 frozen fertilized eggs would solve the problem. But according to Dr. Whelan:
But the well-guarded secret is that access to these few hundred thousand embryos, while it may assist researchers temporarily, is only part of what is needed to keep America in competition with other nations seeking stem-cell based therapies.
Whelan posits that the greatest help to scientists will come from federal funding for "somatic cell nuclear transfer" (SCNT), also known as "therapeutic cloning."

Now, if you're like me, the word cloning conjures up all sorts of unpleasant images, mostly gleaned from science fiction movies like the recent release, The Island. In this film, Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, living in a sterile, futuristic environment, discover they and all their friends are clones manufactured to supply body parts and organs to their wealthy "owners" when needed. Well, it's time to rein in your horror, because as Dr. Whelan explains:
The difference between therapeutic cloning and what is known as "reproductive cloning" lies not in methodology but in intent. Reproductive cloning is performed with the intention of creating a fully-formed organism, a clone like the sheep Dolly. But blastocysts created for therapeutic cloning, as in the example above, are not intended to be implanted in a uterus. In fact, they are never allowed to develop for more than five days. Instead, these blastocysts are seen as sources of cells with the unique potential to form any cell type in the human body. It is these cells that scientists hope to understand well enough to guide their formation into neurons that could treat Parkinson disease, insulin cells that could cure diabetes, and more.
Read the entire article. It's worth it.
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i don't understand the diff between therapautic and reprodutcive cloning. isn't a clone just a copy. ???
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