Culture: September 2005 Archives

Via Mister Snitch!, there's news of a woman, 19 years a paraplegic, who has regained some feeling and movement in her legs following infusion of stem cells from umbilical cord blood.

Mister Snitch writes: "If this, again, is valid, it probably also marks the beginning of the end of principled resistance against stem cell research in this country. The political tide will quickly swing overwhelmingly in favor of more research, and quickly."

I am not aware of any opposition to any form of stem cell research. The principled resistance is to embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Extracting stem cells from an embryo results in the end of that human life; extracting stem cells from cord blood, bone marrow, fat cells, or mucous membranes -- "adult" stem cells -- does not destroy the living human being from whom the cells are taken.

Adult stem cell research has produced real therapeutic benefits, but for some reason it is overlooked by celebrity proponents of embryonic stem cell research. Perhaps it's because it undermines the argument that ESCR is essential. Some ESCR supporters seem desperate to find some positive benefit that can justify the destruction of human life, but so far, all the results have come from non-controversial adult stem cell research.

It reminds me of the lifeboat scenario used to teach "values clarification": There are too many people in a lifeboat, so you have to decide whose life is worth saving and whose should be sacrificed. Ideally, you figure a way so everyone can be saved and no one has to be thrown overboard. That's what adult stem cell research offers.

If there is any political tide resulting from this development, it ought to sweep away federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and deposit those dollars with researchers who are achieving cures using stem cells from cord blood and other sources that respect the sanctity of human life.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Culture category from September 2005.

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