Thursday, June 17, 2004

Nancy Reagan and Stem Cells

It was recently reported that Nancy Reagan has begun a public push for stem cell research. The impetus, of course, is the horrid disease from which her husband suffered. This invites some profound issues into the public square about stem cell research and the ethics of infant and fetal life.

It is my experience that most people believe it to be the case that only fetal tissue can provide viable stem cells. Then combining that belief with the overwhelming emotional issues of dealing with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, it seems reasonable to many to allow the destruction of fetal tissue for research.

There are several serious issues with this, however. First, an emotional attachment to an issue does not necessarily impute actual value. For instance, I am a huge fan of the Avalanche hockey team. But no matter the emotional attachment I have to their success or failure, it does not therefore make their team or the sport of hockey inherently valuable. Inherent value must be discussed on its own terms. So we should lay aside the emotional connection with the disease when discussing fetal stem cells. Besides, I might think that parents, and at the least God, have an equal emotional attachment to a child that some would want to kill for their own emotional needs.

Secondly, it has been shown by no less than the leading scientists and bioethicists of our day, and infamously ignored, that adult stem cells are at the least equally able to morph into other forms of cells, and possibly more so, than fetal stem cells. It seems clear to me; we have an abundant source of adult tissue that is routinely thrown away (e.g. umbilical cords) which already provides useful stem cells for research, and the use of fetal stem cells kills a human being in cold blood. There should be no question.

But there is. Why? Well, (he said with a Reaganesque lilt to his voice and tilt of the head) people like Nancy Reagan most likely push for fetal research because they have never been told about the benefits of adult stem cells. And what about those who know and still push for fetal research? In my opinion, that has to do with a political agenda attached to abortion rights and the project to eliminate the Christian voice from the public square. But that is another blog…

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