I read an interesting article today about the Republican presidential candidates’ views on embryonic stem cell research. Actually, the article was about whether or not each would support funding for this research. If you are unfamiliar with embryonic stem cells, here is information from the NIH. This is a topic I have followed for many years, and I certainly have opinions on it. I am expressing my own opinions here and no one else’s. This is very controversial topic and I do not intend to offend anyone. This is simply how I feel. I will also state that embryonic stem cell research is very unlikely to help my conditions. That makes it no less important of an issue to me.
First, let’s remember that we don’t know what these stem cell lines may or may not be able to cure. That said, I think that if you’ve never had a serious illness, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but you must also admit that you do not understand the emotional reaction that those will CIs will have. I simply ask that you do not pretend that you understand.
Next, I do not think that religious views should be a part of this discussion in any way. Many people use references to a bible or a higher being in these discussions. However, if someone can impose their religious views on me, then I should be able to impose my religious views on them, and things get messy. We are not a Christian nation, a Jewish nation, an atheist nation, a Buddhist nation, an Islamic nation, or a nation that is any other way devoted to a single religion. Therefore, religion is not a part of this issue.
If I was given the choice of saving one baby from death or saving one million other people from death, I’d choose the one million. If I was given the choice of killing one baby or killing one million people, I would reluctantly choose the baby. What we’re talking about is less black and white. In fact, there are many shades of gray. Are we talking about killing a baby to potentially cure millions? Not quite. Are we talking about preventing the formation of a baby in order to potentially cure millions? That’s closer.
Of course, the real problem is that we (U.S. society) disagree on when life begins. Does it begin when an embryo is formed? Does it begin when a fetus is able to survive independent of the mother/surrogate? If you believe that life begins at the moment of conception, then I can understand why embryonic stem cell research bothers you. However, instead of fighting embryonic stem cell research, I suggest that you fight the creation of the embryos to begin with. The embryos used for this research are created with the consent of the donors, and they will be destroyed if they are not used for this research. If you do not believe that life begins at the moment of conception, then this argument is harder to understand; there is no reason to argue against the research. If a collection of cells can not survive on it’s own, then is it really a life? Yes, there are organisms that are considered living even if they can not survive on their own. They are called parasites. Humans, however, are not parasites, and can not survive as such. Therefore, I personally believe that life does not begin at conception.
Now, consider that an embryo is a collection of cells. This is scientific fact. In the case of embryonic stem cells, this collection of cells was formed in a laboratory. It was not formed naturally. In general, these embryos are going to be destroyed if they are not used for this research. If the research does not occur, then what should be done with these cells? I have not yet seen any of the candidates, or any other politicians, propose alternatives. Should these cells be implanted in women? What if the donors do not want the cells to be implanted in other women? What if other women do not what them? If the cells are considered a life, then how can be they turned into humans, and who would care for these children once they are born? I believe that anyone arguing against embryonic stem cell research on the grounds that a life is being destroyed must have answers to these questions. I do not believe the answers are relevant to the discussion, but I am curious as to why no one has suggested answers yet.
Now, let’s go back to the earlier questions. If you believe that embryonic stem cells are created by killing babies, then I can understand that it does not matter to you how many people may be helped. There are arguments for the research which center on the number of people who could potentially be helped and I think this is a bad approach. We do not know how many people could be helped or in what ways. What we do know is how the research itself is being conducted. Our tax dollars pay for many different kinds of research on the grounds that it will help us collectively. Some research succeeds and some does not, but it must be conducted in order to find out what the results will be. The question is not how many people could be helped, but whether or not there is an ethical objection to the manner in which the research is conducted. I do not believe that there is.