From lab-made embryos to organs: the ethics of stem cell science

By Kelly MacNAMARA

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Scientific advance will happen, even if people try to oppose it, because the benefits are significant. But having ethical constrains for the research is also essential. These regulation may not stop everybody (as was the case of the rogue scientists Huang that genetically modified human embryos for no real benefit for the patient) but they can be the basis for punishing people acting unethically and to stop funding for any project that is not justified.

A very important thing is that regulations must be well thought and detailed, a blanket prohibition of embryonic research for example would be too generalized and would hinder safe and ethical projects that would help greatly many human patients, requiring an open and transparent ethical review from outside institutions before even beginning a project is a much more useful measure.

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Science has a problem because it cannot create ethics. It can never tell us what we SHOULD or SHOULD not do.

In reality, if there is no God, there is no real right or wrong. There are things that are more or less sanctioned by or not sanctioned by society, but it's not really a moral issue. This means that it is not even wrong to kill a person - again assuming there is no God - because these are simply human made ideas. These ideas change over time. For instance, the idea of abortion was, for many years, frowned on by society. It was not acceptable and those who did it felt like they were doing something bad. But for the most part, because most people reject God, now abortion is thought to be almost a "right". It's a good thing and some ladies even boast about getting an abortion. So, the line in the sand has changed. What used to be unacceptable has now become acceptable by many. Euthanasia is another example of this. Current issues up for debate are the morality of killing a baby at birth if there are defects. A future issue will be forced euthanization which right now is still basically viewed as unacceptable. But that line in the sand will eventually be moved as well.

So when it comes to the ethics of stem cells, here again we run smack into this problem. Science really cannot help us here. The argument is that the end justifies the means. And sure, if there is no God, then why not do "bad" in order for "good" to come? The trend is for the "line that cannot be crossed" to be moved backwards little by little. In other words, small steps/concessions do not bother people as much as large steps/concessions do, but in the end, the result is the same. We end up at the same place. It really seems like there is no real line that cannot be crossed in the end. The only difference is how fast it happens.

I understand why scientists do not like having restrictions placed upon them. Many of them do not believe in moral absolutes so it is frustrating to them to be enslaved by what to them must seem like meaningless "rules/ethics". But it is of utmost importance that some restrictions ARE placed upon scientists or this process of moral degradation will continue at warp speed. Just because others might do it, is no justification for everyone to do it. Where to draw the line is always the problem because people have different opinions, but as a believe in the Creator, I think it is of utmost importance to base our morals on His moral standards.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Science has a problem because it cannot create ethics. It can never tell us what we SHOULD or SHOULD not do.

Your whole comment betrays a deep lack of knowledge about research and ethics, who do you think compromise the ethical committees that regulate research? priests and philosophers? No, they are conformed by scientists specialized in ethical matters. This is because the process of science is not even related to the misrepresentation you make in your comment, most scientists are perfectly fine with ethical regulations that lets them do research while being constricted by the "greater good", the problem is with irrational, badly designed rules that bring no ethical benefit while having actual costs in human lives.

Thinking scientist do not believe in moral standards is an idea coming from bad movies with cliche villains. In reality the people that most strongly protest scientific ethical problems are the scientists themselves.

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This embryo work might save my life at some stage.

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I was just reading about fascinating work done by injecting stem cells from one animal into the embryo of another animal modified genetically so it can't develop a liver, or kidneys. The stem cells from the donor have not this genetic modification so they develop into the organ that is missing.

If those cells came from a human and are injected into the embryo of a pig it would mean you created a chimera (with the body of a pig but the liver of a human!) but more importantly you could get that liver for the person that gave the cells and it would be as if it came from his body, you may have to wait for a year or so to get the organ, but for people desperately looking for donors without finding anyone this may not be a problem

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