SIX STEM CELL FACTS
March 16, 2007
The public discussion of human embryo research has too often lacked intellectual honesty, which has only compounded the confusion of an issue of great scientific and moral complexity, say Robert P. George professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and a member of the President's Council on Bioethics and Rev. Thomas V. Berg, executive director of the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.
Consequently, there are certain facts on which people on either side of the moral debate should be able to agree, say George and Berg. For example:
- There is no "ban" on human embryonic stem cell (ESC) research in the United States; the federal government has funded such research to the tune of $130 million dollars since 2001, and the United States continues to be the international leader in the field.
- We are a long way away from therapies derived from embryonic stem cells; many leading stem cell researchers have echoed the fact that there may be no breakthrough any time soon.
- Standard embryology texts insist that from the zygote (single-cell embryo) stage forward there exists a new living member of the species homo sapiens that has the active potential to develop by an internally directed process towards maturity.
- There are non-controversial alternatives worth exploring; such as the reprogramming of ordinary somatic (body) cells, the derivation of stem cells from amniotic fluid, and (assuming that it can be shown that the product is not an embryo), altered nuclear transfer.
- Concerns about embryo destruction are not only religious; but merely a healthy respect for the human capacity for doing evil in pursuit of the good.
- The search for cures is not the only motive behind ESC research,; many scientists are interested only in enhancing basic scientific knowledge of such things as cell signaling, tissue growth and early human development.
Source: Robert P. George and Thomas V. Berg, "Six Stem Cell Facts," Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2007.
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