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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 meant to post this a few days ago, concurrent with the breaking news of Rush Limbaugh's incredibly insensitive remarks about Michael J. Fox. Life and work intervened, and when I looked up again it was the weekend. I'd missed Rush's numerous attempts to apologize, rationalize, editorialize, and revise his callous comments. (It pains me to send anyone to his site, but it does give us an idea of just how out of touch with reality this man is.)

Now, tomorrow's edition of "The Washington Post" will feature an article by William Saletan, science and technology writer for "Slate," in which he offers a brief recap of some of Limbaugh's more delusional moments:
In Limbaugh's world, "there never was a surplus" under President Bill Clinton. AIDS "hasn't made that jump to the heterosexual community," and cutting food stamps is fine because recipients "aren't using them." Two years ago, he said the minimum wage was $6 or $7 an hour. Last year, he said gas was $1.29 a gallon.

Limbaugh has particular trouble distinguishing reality from entertainment. The abuse at Abu Ghraib "looks just like anything you'd see Madonna or Britney Spears do on stage," he told his listeners. Last month, he defended ABC's Sept. 11 movie against the document on which it purportedly relied: "The 9/11 commission report, for example, says, well, some of these things didn't happen the way they were portrayed in the movie. How do they know that?"

Last year, Limbaugh, who used a tailbone defect to get out of the Vietnam War draft, accused a Democratic candidate of having served in Iraq "to pad the resume." He charged veterans -- including former senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.), who lost his legs and an arm in Vietnam -- with trying "to hide their liberalism behind a military uniform . . . pretending to be something that they are not." When war is just a television show, a uniform is just a costume. Liberalism is real; losing your limbs is a pretense.
And what does this brouhaha have to do with the beginning of human life? Well, the Fox ads are for candidates in various states who support stem cell research. And Parkinson's disease, which Michael J. Fox has lived with since 1991, is one of the conditions that might be helped by embryonic stem cells. "Might be" as in we don't yet know because research into embryonic stem cells has been hampered by limited funding. Yet Limbaugh and his ilk persistently use a lack of concrete results from embryonic cells to denounce those cells' potential. An absurd position, but no more surreal than the world Limbaugh inhabits daily. I continue to wonder, as I have for years, how much longer will people listen to his nonsense?

Read the full Saletan article here.

The New Jersey state assembly is moving toward passage of a bill that would provide $270 million for stem-cell research, including the controversial embryonic stem cells. The bill, already approved by a legislative panel, now needs approval by the full Assembly before moving to the state Senate.

Not surprising, the state's anti-embryonic stem-cell force (I really object to these groups' co-option of the terms "pro-life" and "right to life", as if those of us who support embryonic stem-cell research are anti-life) has raised its voice in opposition, with Republican lawmakers trying to ammend the bill to prohibit funding research involving embryonic stem cells.

We can only hope that the full Assembly follows its panel's recommendation, and sends this very worthwhile bill on the the Senate.

Read the article here.


Elsewhere, in this opinion piece from The Cornell Sun, a college senior makes the argument (one of several) that Bush was right in denying increased federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research because some people are against it (duh), and it's not right to use their tax dollars for something they're against.
Why should the taxes of embryonic stem cell research opponents be used to fund it? Unlike abortions, which are paid by medical insurance, and not the taxes of the American public, embryonic stem cell research would be funded by government money that comes from taxes.
Unfortunately for her argument, the writer did not follow this train of thought far enough. I am opposed to the death penalty. Many other people are also opposed to the death penalty. So far it hasn't seemed to bother the government one iota that it's using my tax dollars to kill people. I've heard no talk of privitizing executions.

And oops. There's that nasty little war in Iraq that I have never supported, although I support our troops who keep getting sent back into the mess. (I think everyone who plasters one of those "Support our troops" bumper stickers on their car should be forced to spend at least one day at a VA hospital with returning injured veterans. Then let them ponder how slapping a stupid bumper sticker on their SUV supports ANYONE in a meaningful way.) Don't even get me started about how many of my tax dollars have been dumped into the Iraq quagmire.

So, Hannah, you should lose your "federal tax dollars" argument. The citizenry's moral acceptance of an issue has never been part of the government criteria for spending our money, unless that issue happens to fit the sitting Administration's agenda.


This cartoon from 2005 is just as pertinent today, if not more so. Visit Daryl Cagle's Cartoon Index for a wealth of topical cartoons and talented cartoonists.

Some of the latest news items on the status of embryonic stem-cell research:

1. More than a millon Americans who suffer from the debilitating neurological disorder Parkinson's disease are likely to be among the first to benefit from promising advances in embryonic stem cell research, unless political controversy keeps slowing down the process, scientists said Monday. Read the article

2. Burt Aaronson is hopeful, but also realistic about whether the Florida House of Representatives will vote to place a constitutional amendment on the 2008 ballot, authorizing millions in state support for stem cell research.

Some 60 percent of the both the House and Senate must approve any proposed amendment before it can be placed on a ballot. Beyond that, some 611,000 signatures must be gathered.

Aaronson said his group, the Florida Coalition for Embryonic Stem Cell Research (CESCR) "will continue working on a petition to get enough signatures" despite a lack of House support.
Read the article

3. Earlier this year, the University of Connecticut and Yale each recruited a top-notch stem cell researcher, each with impeccable credentials at a prestigious university.

Haifan Lin, at Yale, and Ren-He Xu, at UConn - each, as it happens, originally from China - have a chance to do something no one has done in Connecticut since Igor Sikorsky screwed a metal blade with an engine onto a cockpit. They can launch an industry that truly drives growth in the state.

The bait that lured them here was a $100 million fund set up in 2005 by the governor and the state legislature in response to President Bush's backward-thinking ban on federal funding for certain embryonic stem cell research.

Bush's ban brings a fascinating double edge.
Read the article

4. Billboards along Missouri highways promise that if voters approve a stem cell measure on the November ballot, their loved ones could be saved from debilitating diseases.

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research cry foul. They point out that while adult stem cells have been used to treat people for years, embryonic stem cells have yet to save even a single life.

Both positions contain a grain of truth and a mound of hype.
Read the article

It's no secret that George W. Bush is opposed to embryonic stem-cell research. It's also no stretch to assume that George W. Bush was not a whiz at science in school. So it now comes as no surprise that the scientist unceremoniously dumped last year from the President's Council on Bioethics has won two international science awards within the last three weeks.

Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, "hailed as one of the world's leading medical researchers and cancer scientists," was "dismissed from Bush's Council on Bioethics last year, amid controversy over her support for embryonic stem-cell research." Dr. Blackburn received the $337,000 Gruber Prize in New Orleans last Tuesday and the Lasker award in September, a frequent pointer to the Nobel Prize. Dr. Blackburn had won another Nobel precursor in 1999 as the California Scientist of the Year.

Read the whole article here.

Should seats on a presidential "advisory" committee be limited to persons who already upport the President's well publicized views? Is one's position on a topic more important than one's credentials? And finally, how can an advisory committee "advise" when all of its members already agree with the president they're supposed to be advising? Inquiring minds and all tha

Brain Pills
Roe v. Wade
Stem Cells
Stem Cell Fight!
Bearing Right
Moral Monkey?
Dave's site
Stem Stall
Bush the hypocrite

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