Sunday, August 27, 2006

Embryonic Stem Cells

This is a subject that divides a lot of people. As potential human life, human embryos deserve our respect. They are not, I think, comparable to any other clot of tissue because of their potential.

Should embryonic stem cell research be allowed? I think that it is permissible if the life of the embryo is not compromised. With the consent of the parents involved, I do not see that taking some cells from an embryo in a fashion that would not kill the embryo as problematic.

However, this raises a lot of practical problems. What sort of experimentation would have to be done to prove that this could be done? Would this not require all sorts of potentially damaging things be done to embryonic life?

I think that there is a danger in being too cavalier. I do not consider a freshly fertilized human zygote to be the moral equivalent of my 8 month old. But I think that we need to approach the fertilized human egg with awe and respect; to do less would be to devalue the life that such gave us. There is enough contempt for life in the world without science participating.

One somewhat questionable approach is to say that one should only use embryos that are going to be discarded anyway. On one hand, you are rescuing knowledge that could potentially help desparate people. On the other, you are participating in the destruction of life. There is not a guarantee that anything useful would be gained, some say.

But it is guaranteed that much will be lost by discarding unused embryos. The life that we value, by resisting the use of stem cells from discarded embryos, is certainly harmed by willfully remaining ingnorant. There seems to me to be a very narrow road that one could travel, that would make sense scientifically and ethically.


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