Today’s American Journal of Bioethics column about Dr. Charles Krauthammer’s August 5 Washington Post column, “Cell Lines, Moral Lines,” does more than just show political bias. It looks like the anonymous editor over there has a reading skill deficit.
Dr. Krauthammer opens with
It is a good idea to expand federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. It is a bad idea to do that without prohibiting research that uses embryos created specifically to be used in research and destroyed.
AJOB’s post entitled, ” The Right Wing’s Attempt to Kill Stem Cell Research,” opens with,
Krauthammer’s column today in the Washington Post argues that the expansion of stem cell research using new lines of stem cells is bad. He’s just plain wrong on the facts, so the column is pretty useless, which is no surprise given the tactics used these days by those who oppose embryonic stem cell research: confuse and redirect.
But what is clear here is that there is a political strategy in play – while the money for expanded stem cell research that is implicit in any Senate or House proposal thus far is small, the effect on state-based stem cell research under Castle-DeGette would be huge. In effect the Frist effort could clamp down on new state-based initiatives, restricting the amount and kind of research that states (read: California) could do with their own money. Hmm.
I don’t intend to make this a negative blog or engage in one-on-one debate with Professors McGee and Caplan, but their post continues by quoting another columnist, who, like this anonymous editor, doesn’t seem to understand that there are different types and sources of stem cells and the issue is not whether the President, Dr. Krauthammer or any of us want to ban all stem cell research. We’d just rather not kill anyone for it.
Anyone with a high school biology course should understand that the embryo is not some construct that can be separated from the later, adult being. The embryo is what that being (in this case human — or why not use apes or mice in the first place?) is – the exact being who would/will be born, get a birth certificate, walk, talk, maybe learn to read and earn a Ph.D. in philosophy if he’s so lucky. (We’ll talk about why apes but not human beings, later — but look at my tag line for one reason.)
However, the level of functioning isn’t necessary for membership in the species, either. Otherwise, (with the right reasoning such as national security, happiness, wealth or health), we’d be justified in discriminating against those who can read and those who can’t, those who can bear children and those who can’t, or even based on ancestry, religion or the amount of pigment in the skin.
When we kill the embryonic human being, we may or may not cause grieving in the parents, but we have still caused the death of one of us. No one, even the most kindhearted person, could grieve for all the anonymous deaths of human beings that take place outside our knowledge or even for all those we know about but are not at least peripherally emotionally attached to. People are not human beings just because someone loves them, despite the croonings of Dean Martin.
Western medicine and humane [sic] research has been built on the ancient Greek concept often paraphrased as “Heal if possible, but, first, do no harm (or evil).” Even if there were no other way to cure 6 year old type I diabetics (or even if we could cure our particular, loved 6 year old tomorrow, rather than in 20 years), we can’t justify the killing of another human being for the use of his parts and remain humane.
But, of course, it’s not necessary and any cures are far in the future. In the meantime, we can currently treat over 60 diseases with non-embryonic stem cells. Scientists are finding stem cells in every organ, the umbilical cord blood, and even the the placenta.
The ideal would be to treat disease in situby learning to stimulate factors, environments and genes that control the patient’s own stem cells and regenerative powers. I’d rather have a shot than surgery to implant stem cells, wouldn’t you?