Stem Cell Research • The Process • The Benefits: • If it is shown to be possible to convert stem cells into various cell/tissues, then they might be turned into: • Pancreatic Cells - Strom Thurmond • Brain Cells - Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Nancy Reagan • Spinal Cord Cells - Christopher Reeves • Social/Medical benefits are substantial • What are the ethical problems?
Stem Cell Research • The Status of the Blastocyst • Does the blastocyst have the same rights as human beings? • E.g., the right to life, to thrive, not to be harmed, etc. • And this is the abortion question once again. • If the blastocyst has the same rights as a human being, then to derive stem cells from it means that a human being must be killed. • From the conservative point of view, do the benefits derivable from stem cell research justify the destruction of the blastocyst?
Stem Cell Research President Bush's Solomonic Question: How to satisfy the demands of those who want stem cell research to continue while, at the same time, not offending those who believe that taking stem cells amounts to killing. The Decision: Use Stem cell lines taken from already created embryos (about 30-60) Take from embryos created in fertility clinics in U.S. and abroad No further lines can be developed and no further embryos can be created for these purposes This restriction is limited to what federal funds can support
Stem Cell Research • The Result: No One is Pleased • On the conservative side, the claim is that even using already created embryos is a retrospective sanction for killingThere are many other sources for stem cells, e.g. from cord blood or from adults • On the liberal side, the number of existing stem cell lines is not large enough for significant researchStem cells from other sources may not be as viable; the best results will come from a large number of stem cell lines created from embryos, more than currently available
Stem Cell Research • Some other consequences not mentioned in the debate: • The restriction is only on the use of federal funds -- stem cell research can, and does, take place in the private sectorIf privately financed, will there be pressure for patenting cell lines in order to recoup investments?Some lines are already patented, e.g. by the University of Wisconsin Alumni Foundation
Stem Cell Research • Consequences (cont.) • Will the President's decision drive this research abroad to countries without restrictions on this research?E.g., Great Britain, the Warnock Commission • A Complication: • Tissue from stem cell lines taken from a blastocyst which is a clone of me may be more useful for me than those taken from someone else
Stem Cell Research • A New Distinction: • Cloning (delayed twinning): • Human Cloning • Therapeutic Cloning • But the question remains the same: How are we to think about the blastocyst whether it comes from in vitro fertilization or from cloning?
Stem Cell Research Back to the original question: What is the status of the blastocyst? The abortion question: At what point do rights apply? At conception, at 14 weeks, at quickening, at viability, at birth, etc.? Are any of these points absolute or do rights accrue gradually? If the rights at the blastocyst stage are minimal, then can they be over-ridden by other rights? Is agreement on this question possible?