Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Stem Cells - An analogy

With the discovery that Governor Palin is against embryonic stem cell research, the hysterical left is clouding the issue by misrepresenting the stand of those of us who are against such research. For example, I just saw Joy Behar on Larry King (talk about an echo chamber) complaining - what are we, in the 1800s? Come on, let's do what we can to help people! A correspondent from CNN complained likewise that people like Governor Palin are trying to prevent everyone else from getting better just because she doesn't support embryonic stem cell research. The problem is that both of those complaints miss the point. Perhaps an analogy will be useful:

Suppose that tomorrow we awoke to hear that researchers at the Mayo Clinic have discovered that certain cells in the body of women nearing menopause can be harvested and used to treat any cancer that results from a degradation of DNA. In this press release, the researchers note that to be most effective, the cells must be gathered from a living woman. However, here's the kicker. While the cells in one woman's body can provide a cure for as many as 20 different cancer victims, the process of harvesting the cells, even to treat one person, will result in the death of the donor. So, should we begin rounding up pre-menopausal women and killing them, given that one woman's life can save 20? I cannot believe any sane human being would agree to such a plan.

Here's the rub - I believe (as do millions of my fellow Americans) that the life of a viable embryo is of equal worth to a pre-menopausal woman. It is therefore to me as unthinkable and immoral to destroy the embryo as it would be to kill pre-meopausal women.

You may disagree with my value system - so be it. But let's not pretend that the disagreement is about anything other than the relative value of a human embryo. And if I am right, and the life of the embryo is in fact as worthy of protection as that of any other human, then it is immoral to destroy it, no matter how many people would potentially be helped.


Andy said...

For the sake of discussion, I will pretend life really does start at conception and that there is some magical entity called a soul that enters it at that time.

You make the case that killing a few to save the many is not right. It would seem, however, that this is routinely done in times of war (indeed, we kill the innocent few to save the many, as at Hiroshima), and I presume you support such action (I do not recall that you are a pacifist.)

Although there are obvious differences between the two scenarios, they seem to be differences in degree rather than kind. The brute fact is that innocent people are sometimes sacrificed to save others.

Also, let me make it clear that I am not espousing my own views here, but merely pointing out a seeming contradiction in yours. When it comes to abortion, I take the view that since an embryo is not sentient or able to feel pain until the third trimester, it should not be legally deemed a human until then.

Anonymous said...

I am doing a high school research project on this controversy and have found that in destroying an embryonic cell, your not actually taking a human life. The embryo that the cells are derived from would not have become a human anyway because they are the leftover embryos from in-vetro fertilization. They would have been discarded or frozen indefinately regardless.