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Navigation: SOS Sisson > Life Ethics Blog
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.
Monday, April 30, 2007
New Jersey Opens First State-Funded Stem-Cell Research Lab
From the Home News Tribune:
RUTGERS — As legislation to help fund embryonic stem-cell research makes its way toward President Bush's desk — and an inevitable veto — New Jersey is opening the doors to the first state-funded stem cell research lab in the nation.Read the complete article and let us know what you think. Are opponents of embryonic stem-cell research ignoring the fact that the embryos used for research would be destroyed anyway? Are they favoring potential life over actual life? Which is more important? Is that an answerable question?
Friday, April 27, 2007
Catholic Presidential Candidates Differ on Embryonic Stem Cell Research
I came across this at Catholic Online.
NEWTON, Mass. (The Pilot) - Two Catholic senators and presidential candidates — Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.- shared their views on their faith and how it affects their public policy decisions on April 23 at Boston College’s Conte Forum.Although the senators agreed on some issues, like Iraq, the death penalty, and prison reform, they "disagreed sharply on other societal hot-button issues such as embryonic stem-cell research, abortion and same-sex unions."
Dodd indicated he is in favor of embryonic stem-cell research in cases where “the choice goes down to whether to discard embryonic stem cells or utilize them.” Brownback, who is opposed to embryonic stem-cell research, indicated that he believes the issue “boils down to one question: What is the youngest of humans — is it a person or property?”Read the complete article.
Monday, April 23, 2007
Adoptive Parents of Frozen Embryo Baby Fight Embryonic Stem Cell Research
A couple who adopted their two-year-old daughter as a frozen embryo left stored in a fertility clinic freezer, are now using their story to fight against legislation that would permit research using human embryos, the Dialog reported April 16.How lucky Erin is to have been adopted by a loving couple. However, the reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of these frozen embryos and most of them (probably 99%) will never be adopted. Eventually, they will be thrown out.
And what if Erin should develop a disease for which there is no cure, or injure her spine causing paralysis, or suffer a traumatic brain injury? I have no doubt that her parents would pray like crazy for a cure for their child. Well, there are thousands (if not millions) of parents out there praying right now. And some of the miracles they're praying for might be found in embryonic stem cell research. The last thing I want to do is deny them their chance for a miracle.
Read the complete article here.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
A Liberal Look at George W. Bush's "Culture of Life"
For an admittedly liberal viewpoint on the stem-cell research issue, check out this Salon.com blog, The Liberal Perspective / Joe Sheridan's Radio Weblog. Here's an excerpt:
George Bush is attempting to kill the federal funding of stem cell research and limit scientists access to already available stem cells. The United States Supreme Court on April 19, 2007 ruled against partial birth abortions in an historic five to four decision.
Stem cell research is not a matter of law; it is a matter of faith. If George Bush or Pat Robertson, or James Dobson do not wish to have their stem cells used in this scientific venture, they are not forced to participate. On the other hand, the fact that Joe Sheridan and his wife wish to have our stem cells employed in such an endeavor is our decision based upon our faith and our interpretation of the beginning of human life.
Read the complete blog post.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
After Senate Vote, Bush Still Determined to Veto Stem Cell Bill
It's important to remember that all of the discussion about embryonic stem cell research refers to the blastocyst, a microscopic clump of about 120 cells. (To put that in perspective, estimates of the number of cells in the fully developed human body range from 10 trillion - 100 trillion.)
From an ABC News report:
WASHINGTON Apr 12, 2007 (AP)— A stubborn Senate voted Wednesday to ease restrictions on federally funded embryonic stem cell research, ignoring President Bush's threat of a second veto on legislation designed to lead to new medical treatments.Read the complete article.
Also visit the University of Kansas Medical Center's site on stem cell research for more information and illustrations.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Will Bush Continue to Withhold Funds from Embryonic Stem Cell Research?
From today's "New York Times":
The Senate easily approved a bill this week that would free embryonic stem cell research from the worst shackles imposed by the Bush administration. The House passed its version earlier. A substantial majority of Americans tell pollsters they support embryonic stem cell research. Yet one man, President Bush, and a minority of his party, the religious and social conservatives, are once again trying to impose their moral code on the rest of the nation and stand in the way of scientific progress.Here's an example of the results of Bush's intransigence:
The restrictions on federal financing have led to absurdly complicated and costly maneuvers. Scientists are forced to buy extra equipment and laboratory space with private money to perform off-limits research while using equipment and supplies bought with federal money on the permitted stem cell research. In a shocking example cited during Senate debate, a California researcher who had been cultivating stem cells in a makeshift privately financed lab suffered a power failure but was unable to transfer her lines into industrial-strength freezers in another lab because they were federally financed. Two years of work melted away because of this inanity.Read the complete article.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Congress Closer to Stem Cell Vote
Although Florida seems determined not to fund embryonic stem cell research (for this year at least), things are looking up on the national level. From an "Orlando Sentinel" editorial:
As the U.S. Senate again considers a bill to ease President George W. Bush's restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, members would be wise to heed one of Mr. Bush's appointees. National Institutes of Health Director Elias Zerhouni recently told a Senate panel that "American science will be better served, and the nation will be better served, if we let our scientists have access to more stem-cell lines."Read the complete article.
Florida Legislature Snubs Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Following Gov. Charlie Crist's lead, Florida's legislators avoid the embryonic stem cell research debate by moving forward bills that restrict funding to non-embryonic research. As mentioned here in an earlier post, although the governor's campaign platform included embryonic stem cell research, he back-pedaled on the issue once in office and opted to support other types of research.
Although Gov. Crist's lead on this issue is disappointing, I have to give him credit for some of his decisions in other areas. The most recent? Restoring civil rights to non-violent felons. The governor should be commended for helping move Florida out of the Jim Crow dark ages toward a more just and hopeful future. Now, back to the topic at hand.
From the St. Pete Times:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Two state legislative committees voted Tuesday to focus limited dollars on research using stem cells culled from adults and umbilical cords, rather than human embryos.Read the complete article.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Of Acorns and Oaks
As a college freshman, I had to take a course in World History. I remember nothing about the course except (a) the professor's name, and (b) his striking description of a particular element of medieval philosophy. Item (b) had to do with how people knew that a thing was that thing, and not another. These medieval philosophers believed, said my professor, that "a table is a table because it partakes of table-ness."
I loved that. And it leads me to the subject of this post. If an acorn is an oak, why? and If a blastocyst is a person, why?
A recent Wired Science posting directs us to a Boston Globe column by Michael J. Sandel, who "teaches political philosophy at Harvard." He is also a former member of the Presidential Council on Bioethics -- yes, during the Bush administration. We may then safely assume that he is well-informed, regarding both the philosophical issues (on both sides of the stem-cell debates) and the position of the Bush administration.
As you can see from the page on the Wired site, both the summary and the complete Globe article have stimulated some of the usual reductio-ad-absurdum exaggerations of opponents views at both extremes of the debate, generally stopping juuuust this side of name-calling.
But, with thanks for bringing our attention to Sandel's column, let's leave behind the Wired blog entry, and focus on the column as it appeared in the Globe. It strikes at the heart of many issues at the heart of this Beginning of Human Life blog, here on sossisson.com.
The column may be broken basically into two sections.
In the first section, Sandel points out that neither pro-life nor pro-choice advocates typically expend a lot of effort trying honestly to understand and respect each other's arguments. He then takes up the gauntlet he has cast down, beginning with the pro-life perspective:
It is important to be clear, first of all, about the embryo from which stem cells are extracted. It is not implanted and growing in a woman's uterus. It is not a fetus. It has no recognizable human features or form. It is, rather, a blastocyst, a cluster of 180 to 200 cells, growing in a petri dish, barely visible to the naked eye. Such blastocysts are either cloned in the lab or created in fertility clinics. The bill pending in Congress would fund stem cell research only on excess blastocysts left over from infertility treatments.And then he moves on to summarize the position of advocates of embryonic stem-cell research:
[Brownback's] argument can be challenged on a number of grounds. First, it is undeniable that a human embryo is "human life" in the biological sense that it is living rather than dead, and human rather than, say, bovine. But this biological fact does not establish that the blastocyst is a human being, or a person. Any living human cell (a skin cell, for example) is "human life" in the sense of being human rather than bovine and living rather than dead. But no one would consider a skin cell a person, or deem it inviolable. Showing that a blastocyst is a human being, or a person, requires further argument.It's important to note (despite the hair-trigger vitriol with which some commenters at the Wired site respond) that Sandel is here not laying out his own position. He is attempting to describe the positions of others, in a way which shows respect for both sides. And he does a fair job of it.
The second section of the column addresses the real reason why he wrote the whole thing: To call the bluff of the Bush administration on the issue, because in their handling of it so far they have (as usual, hence unsurprisingly) demonstrated a shameless amoral hypocrisy:
...it is a striking feature of the president's position that, while restricting the funding of embryonic stem cell research, he has made no effort to ban it. To adapt a slogan from the Clinton administration, the Bush policy might be summarized as "don't fund, don't ban." But this policy is at odds with the notion that embryos are human beings.Got that? Sandel is telling Bush (and his subordinates) to put up or shut up: If it's truly immoral to harvest stem cells in this manner, then at least have the cojones to make it illegal as well. Sandel concludes:
Rather than simply complain that the president's stem cell policy allows religion to trump science, critics should ask why the president does not pursue the full implications of the principle he invokes.To which the only response we can offer, really, is: Amen.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
Congress to Vote on Stem Cells This Week
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Stem cells will be at the top of the agenda for the U.S. Senate when it returns on Tuesday with supporters of the research hoping they can change the president's mind on the issue and opponents hoping to have a say about their stand.
The Senate will consider two bills, one virtually identical to a bill vetoed by President George W. Bush last year that would have expanded and encouraged federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research.
The other is a compromise measure worked out by Republicans Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Norm Coleman of Minnesota. It would encourage stem cell research on embryos that have naturally lost the ability to develop into fetuses, such as those that have died "naturally" during fertility treatments.
Read the article here.
Monday, April 02, 2007
Mass. Governor Hopes to Ease Stem Cell Restrictions
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) - Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick said Friday he will push to reverse stem cell research restrictions imposed by his predecessor, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
The changes last August prompted complaints from researchers who said they could be prohibited from using some embryonic stem cells. They also argued the restrictions undercut a 2005 law that had been approved by the Legislature over Romney's veto.
Patrick told a meeting of the Life Sciences Collaborative on Friday that he would ask the Public Health Council, which approved the changes, to revisit the policy. In effect, Patrick will be able to reverse the policy, since he will gain control over the panel next week amid an overhaul linked to the state's new health insurance law.
"I believe that life sciences should be guided by science, not politics," Patrick told the roundtable of biotechnology officials.
The governor said researchers should not have to compete globally "under a regulatory cloud, or to do so with one-hand tied behind their back."
He said he hoped the council would create a hospitable regulatory climate "and then get out of the way so that you can do what you were trained to do, and so that your imagination and creativity can have the full range of its potential."
Embryonic stem cells have the capacity to become any cell in the body, and scientists are eager to expand their research with them to treat a variety of diseases, from Alzheimer's to diabetes. Patrick noted that his mother-in-law suffers from both, while his late mother had lupus.
Read the entire article.
Roe v. Wade
Stem Cell Fight!
Bush the hypocrite
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