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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.

On the one hand, we have Charles W. Baughman, Retired Professor of Old Testament Studies at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, MO. On the other, is King Gustav, who I believe to be a Lutheran, based on the intro to his blog, The Sword of Gustavus:
The truths of Christianity are holistic - that is, they encompass and color our view of everything in life. Just as Gustavus Adolphus worked through his vocation to shape 17th Century Lutheranism in both the civil and ecclesiastical realms, this blog is my attempt to comment on anything and everything that touches the hearts and minds of confessional Lutherans.
Dr. Baughman and King Gustav read the same Old Testament, yet from it they produce wildly different examples of support for their opposing beliefs.

The King cites Psalm 51, although the verse he links to leaves me puzzled as to how this proves anything about the beginning of human life:
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,and in sin did my mother conceive me.
King Gustav's primary argument seems to be that the point at which human life begins cannot be solved by science:
Put simply, scientists measure and observe things. They do empirical studies, chart data, and explore hypotheses through experimentation. You can’t, however, chart the point at which cells become a human being. Why? Because the concept of a “human being” is a philosophical distinction. Christians and ethicists, therefore, have every right to make judgments in this case because such issues, by definition, fall in their realm.
Dr. Baughman refers us to several texts to bolster his argument that human life begins with breath and not at conception. Some of the passages he quotes are:
In Genesis 2.7 we have the first detailed account of the creation of a human being by God: "Yahveh God (The LORD God) formed the man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living nefesh." We could translate nefesh here as either "breath" or "being." Life began for this human being when God breathed breath into him.
Another is:
One of the most graphic examples of the equation of life and breath in the Bible occurs in Ezekiel 37. Here Ezekiel sees a valley of dry bones. Finally, after being reformed into bodies they do not live until breath enters them. Psalm 104.29-30, again, illustrates breath brings life.
And finally, one that I myself have used in this blog:
The Law in Exodus 21.22ff. further confirms that in the Bible a fetus is not considered to be a living human: "Whenever men struggle with each other and strike a pregnant woman so that she miscarries but there is no harm; he shall be severely fined according to that which the husband of the woman shall impose upon him and he shall pay as the judges decide. (23) If there is harm, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, bruise for bruise, blow for blow." Here, only harm to the woman is considered, since the aborted fetus would be dead. Thus, the fetus is not regarded as a human life.
Be sure to read their complete entries on this topics. Dr. Baughman can be found here. And King Gustav's Sword of Gustavus is here.

And please tell us what YOU think.

Could this be a major breakthrough for stem-cell research?
One of Georgia's top research scientists said Thursday that he's discovered a way to quickly manufacture billions of a type of cell — derived from embryonic stem cells — that could grow into nerve and brain tissue, a development that could shorten by years the search for cures to debilitating conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases as well as spinal cord injuries.

University of Georgia scientist Steve Stice calls his discovery "very significant" because no one else is able to make the "progenitor neural cells" in quantities significant enough to meet the needs of researchers at pharmaceutical companies and other universities.
As we've discussed numerous times on this blog: "Embryonic stem cell research has generated great religious and political controversy because embryos are destroyed when their stem cells are harvested." But at UGA,
Stice has recently pioneered in a compromise for researchers: the taking of stem cells from imperfect embryos, incapable of becoming babies, that would be discarded by fertility clinics. That development, he said, is not involved in the latest breakthrough.

Stice said his neural stem cells were derived from one of the original embryonic stem cell lines approved by the NIH for federally funded research.
Read the complete article here.

It looks like there's hope for our home state of Florida. This week saw a bill filed in the legislature that would include embryonic stem-cell research in studies funded by the state. According to an AP story:
The state would pay for stem cell research, including studies using cells harvested from embryos, under a bill filed Tuesday in the Florida Legislature that may have new hope because of backing from Gov. Charlie Crist.

The proposal has failed before, but its chances may be enhanced this year with the support of Crist, who said Tuesday the issue is one of his budget priorities.

"I think it's important, and we talked about it during the campaign, because of the promise it has for maybe the curing ... of many diseases and maladies that exist for a lot of our citizens," Crist said.
This is good news for Florida, and we will be watching this bill's progress closely.

You can read the entire article here.

This from "The Washington Times":
[Maryland] Gov. Martin O'Malley has proposed an additional $10 million in funding for stem-cell research in the 2008 budget he submitted to the legislature yesterday. The proposal by Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, would augment $15 million in stem-cell research funding provided by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.
All is not smooth sailing though:
Nancy Paltell, associate director of Respect for Life at the Maryland Catholic Conference, questioned the research value of embryonic stem cells. She also questioned whether Mr. Lenett's bill was true to Mr. Ehrlich's request that science be used to determine the best stem-cell research to fund.
Read the whole article here.

British women could be selling their stem-cell eggs before too long. This just in from the AP:

Say you’re a woman who wants to have fertility treatment but can’t afford the $5,000 to $6,000 cost.

What if you could get it for half price, by agreeing to donate half the eggs you produce for stem-cell research?

British women may get a crack at that deal in a few months, under a plan pursued by Dr. Alison Murdoch of Newcastle University.

This concept, which resembles a strategy sometimes used to get eggs for fertility treatment, is one of several new efforts to boost the supply of human eggs needed for research. The shortage has triggered an ethical debate on both sides of the Atlantic: Should women be paid for supplying eggs?

The article further points out:
The compensation question has split American feminists and advocates for reproductive health and rights, said Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society. One side says offering money beyond reimbursement risks exploiting disadvantaged women, while the other side calls that stance paternalistic, she said.

Go here for the complete text then please leave a comment telling us how you feel about this question. Should women be paid for their eggs?

Human embryonic stem cells can help regenerate damaged nerves in rats, producing compounds that nurture nerve cells and stimulate the growth of new ones, Geron Corp. said on Wednesday, January 17, 2007. Read the Reuters' article here.

We recommend that you check out the Stem Cell Research Blog. From their latest post:
The White House Domestic Policy Office’s report on the latest in non-embryonic stem cell research and recent reports that a White House Executive Order is pending, make it obvious that this Administration is working overtime to mislead the American public.
With less than five percent of all federal funding for stem cell research going to embryonic stem cell research, it should come as no surprise that advances in adult stem cell science fill scientific journals. It’s exactly why we urge lawmakers to pass H.R. 3 and S. 5 to allow America’s best scientists to fully explore all avenues of research. Scientists, including those whose work the White House touts, agree that embryonic research shows great promise for better treatments and cures for the 100 million Americans suffering from cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries, and other debilitating diseases and disorders.
A good resource for relevant information (plus a knack for cutting right through the Administration's veil of deceptive verbiage). We recommend it.

U.S. Senator Sam Brownback commented on yesterday's House vote to force taxpayers to fund research that destroys human embryos.

"The House of Representatives fell well short of the votes they would need to override a presidential veto of legislation to increase taxpayer funded research that destroys human life," Brownback said.

Later in the article, Brownback goes on to say, "Taxpayers should not be left to foot the bill of human embryonic stem cell research, which has proven to be highly inefficient as well as unethical. I look forward to a vigorous bioethics debate in the Senate." [Yeah, well there are a lot of ethical issues the Senate could be debating other than stem cell research.] Read the whole sad article here.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to broaden federal support for embryonic stem cell research, stepping up a confrontation with President George W. Bush over a thorny scientific and ethical issue that Democrats hope to capitalize on in the next election.

The vote Thursday, 253 to 174, was not enough to overturn a likely presidential veto of the measure, which would authorize federal support for research using stem cells derived from excess embryos that fertility clinics would otherwise discard.

The White House said Thursday that the president would veto the bill, just as he did last year. "The bill would compel all American taxpayers to pay for research that relies on the intentional destruction of human embryos," the White House statement said.

It would take 290 House votes to override a veto. Continue reading here.

I still want to know why it's okay to compel me to pay for executing human beings or to fund a war I do not support, but it's not okay to compel taxpayers to pay for using embryos that will be destroyed anyway? This culture of life is pretty selective. And this president is so inconsistent in his beliefs.

The delegation is divided on if they should increase federal support for embryonic stem cell research.

Democrats Nancy Boyda and Dennis Moore voted for the bill, which passed on a 253 to 174 U.S. house vote.

Republicans Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt voted against the bill. Read article here.

Rep. Heath Shuler made his first break from party ranks Thursday in joining 15 other Democrats voting against legislation lifting limits on embryonic stem cell research. The bill allowing federally funded experiments on cells that otherwise would be discarded by fertility clinics had not been considered a strict test of party loyalty. Thirty-seven Republicans joined Democrats in passing the measure.

But it did set Shuler apart in what was only the third bill considered in the House Democratic majority’s 100-hour legislative priority list. Continue reading here.

Legislation to buck Bush administration policy and expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research won the support of the state’s three House Democrats on Thursday.

Rep. John Boozman, R-Rogers, opposed the legislation, which passed 253-174. Democrats Vic Snyder of Little Rock, Mike Ross of Prescott and Marion Berry of Gillett voted for it.

President Bush has promised to veto the bill, as he did last year when the previous Congress adopted identical legislation. Congress did not have the necessary two-thirds majority to overturn that veto and likely will not have the votes this year, either. Read more of this article here.

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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