Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Stem Cell Debate Simplified 

In addition to the intentionally misleading verbiage often employed in discussing this issue that I previously discussed, as with almost any other political debate there is more than a modicum of "gotcha" being played. We turn to Jeff Jarvis for a fine example of this technique:
[T]his morning, I thought I heard Sen. Sam Brownback say that this would be the first case of using taxpayer money to intentionally end human life. Uh, Senator, what about capital punishment and war?
Thanks for advancing the debate, Jeff.

While Jeff is technically correct that both capital punishment and war use federal funding to end human life, it is really quite easy to break down the issue of embryonic stem cell research to a few clear benchmarks by which an individual's position may be defined:
  1. No embryonic stem cell research should happen at all
  2. No federal funding of embryonic stem cell research
  3. Federal funding of embryonic stem cell research limited to existing strains
  4. Federal funding of embryonic stem cell research limited to stem cells that may be collected from blastocysts discarded after in vitro fertilization therapy
  5. Unrestricted federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, including the creation of embryos specifically for research purposes
Often the rhetoric used leaves the impression that Bush and all those backward Republicans are sitting on level 1 like Luddites. The reality, though, is that Bush's policy is sitting at level 3 and Senator Brownback was obviously speaking about the current proposal to move to level 4.

There is no argument that some Americans are completely opposed to any research or federal funding, but we have already crossed that Rubicon and are unlikely to retreat unless alternative stem cell sources are demonstrably superior. Likewise, I feel confident in saying that those who support unrestricted funding are also likely to be dissatisfied, as for most Americans the intentional creation of an embryo just to harvest its stem cells feels a little too much like human experimentation for comfort. Therefore, when all the innuendo and passion is stripped away what is generally being discussed is if we should, as a country, set our policy at level 3 or level 4.

It should be recognized, however, that to open the door to research using discarded blastocycts also opens the door for the potential abuse of this provision, and these dangers need to be discussed, as Senator Frist recently has. This is an important issue that needs to be discussed with logic and consideration rather than with ad hominem attacks and snark.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?