Human embryonic stem cell research and cloning HSCI E137 Apr 27, 2011
Some issues raised by ARTs • Severing sex from reproduction • New family arrangements and relationships • Defining life and its beginning • Reproduction as a private matter, vs. reproduction as communal • Roe v Wade and ARTs: how far do we take “choice”? • Roe v Wade and the HeSC debate
On the debate: should egg donors get paid? • Associated questions: • Should reproductive technologies be regulated in some way? • Should we make whatever use we want of embryos? • Right now: the public/private distinction • Is this a double standard? Do we need a more coordinated framework?
Obama on stem cell research “Today with the executive order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many… have hoped for… these past eight years: We will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will also vigorously support scientists who pursue this research.” (March 9, 2009)
Obama on stem cell research “I can also promise that we will never undertake this research lightly….We will develop strict guidelines, which we will rigorously enforce, because we cannot ever tolerate misuse or abuse.” (March 9, 2009)
Left: most embryonic stem cells are ex- tracted from embryos created by in- vitro fertilization. Below: Stem cells can also be extracted by somatic cell nuclear transfer, also called therapeutic cloning. Either way, after five days, the embryo’s inner cell mass, with its stem cells, is transferred to a lab dish, where they are grown. Stem cells are pluripotent-- capable of differentiating into any type of tissue in the body.
NY Times diagram The new method for deriving human embryonic stem cells, without the need for destroying embryos.
The recent history • 1996: Dickey-Wicker Amendment • 1998: James Thompson establishes and maintains human embryonic stem cell lines • 1999: Clinton’s policy: discarded vs. created • 2001: Bush’s Aug. 9 announcement
The NAS Guidelines (2005, updated in 2010) • For non-federally funded research • Embryos should be created for research purposes, but not grown for more than 14 days. • The “moral status of the embryo” is the principal and most obvious of the stem cell debates.
The equal moral status view:“the intrinsic dignity of every human being” “The principle to which I subscribe is one that says that all human beings are equal, and ought not to be harmed or considered to be less than human on the basis of age or size or stage of development or condition of dependency….An embryo is not something distinct from a human being; it is a human being in its earliest stage of development.” --Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton
The developmental perspective: no “bright line” when an embryo becomes a person “The fact that all persons were once blastocysts does not prove that all blastocysts are persons.” BUT-- “To regard an embryo as a mere thing open to any use we might desire or devise does…miss its significance as a potential human life. You don’t have to regard an embryo as a full human person to believe that it is due a certain respect… Personhood isn’t the only warrant for respect.” --Michael Sandel, professor of government at Harvard
The NAS Guidelines (2005/2010) • Restrictions on creation of chimeras arising from human embryonic stem cells implanted in an animal; how human is human? • Regulations regarding the source of the embryos • Ethics of fertility clinics are tied to the ethics of human embryonic stem cell research
The recent history • March 2009: Obama’s executive order, allowing federal funding for research on embryos left over from IVF treatments • July 2009: NIH Guidelines for HeSC research using federal funds • August 2010: federal judge blocked Obama’s order (but temporary stay of the injunction on Sept 2010)