Monday, May 23, 2005

Stem Cell Debate

Stem Cell research is not a foreign topic on this site or to many of our readers. The debate has come to the forefront again this week, as two bills in Congress circulate that would allow federal funding of stem cell research. President Bush has said that he will veto any efforts to allow federal funding for research involving stem cells.

As with many scientific issues that have become politicized for one reason or another, there is certainly room on either side of the debate for reasonable and educated people to disagree. A good source of information, if you're interested in learning more, is The National Institutes of Health (NIH) webpage on Stem Cell Research. It's important to have a solid understanding of what is involved in the process, particularly if a person is going to be opposed to said process.

Despite my pleas, President Bush and many opponents of stem cell research continue to spread half-truths and complete lies about how embryonic stem cells are acquired. The vast majority of embryonic stem cells in the existing lines that are available in the US to be used in research were obtained from left over embryos from the process of in vitro fertilization. If not used for stem cell research, these fertilized embryos are presently discarded after a set amount of time.

Opponents of stem cell research relate the process of developing embryonic stem cells to destroying the embryo and therefore, ending a potential human life. The problem with this logic, aside from the fact that it is not based in fact, is that these fertilized eggs would otherwise be thrown into the trash, if they weren't used for stem cell research. For some reason, we don't have a problem tossing these embryos in the trash, but we do have a problem utilizing their potential to treat serious diseases that kill thousands of people every year.

I think it's perfectly acceptable to have a moral objection to stem cell research, as long as you understand the process you're objecting to. For some reason, opponents of stem cell research have chosen not to object to in vitro fertilization or any of the other methods for creating pregnancies that fertilize multiple eggs in the hope that 1 might implant. There is no logic behind saying that you're saving a human life by opposing stem cell research, unless you also oppose in vitro fertilization for the same reason.

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