Stem Cell Smackdown: Part Three
Two ethics scholars plunge into the scientific and moral divide over embryonic stem-cell research.
Ronald M. Green, chair of the department of religion at Dartmouth College, serves on the Ethics Advisory Board of Advanced Cell Technology, a biotechnology company.
Nigel Cameron is research professor of bioethics at Chicago-Kent College of Law and president of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future.
Nigel Cameron's latest entry in our brief, but intense dialogue about religion and therapeutic cloning arrives at an interesting moment. Last night, I was seated at dinner next to a woman whose daughter has type-1 diabetes. The woman told me that, following the birth of a second child, her daughter suffered a severe stroke that left her paralyzed on the right side of her body. The woman inquired about the prospects for therapies or cures for her daughter through stem cell and therapeutic cloning research.
This conversation took place almost ten years to the day following the official publication of the report of the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel. I served on that panel along with 18 other scientists, bioethicists, lawyers and specialists in the area of reproductive medicine. Our report recommended funding for stem-cell research. We permitted the deliberate creation of human embryos for research "potentially of outstanding scientific and therapeutic value."
Unfortunately, all the work of our panel was swept away when Newt Gingrich's conservative, "Contract with America" Congress came to power in January 1995.
As I spoke to my dinner conversation partner, I reflected on how different things might have been for her daughter if the recommendations in our report had been heeded. I might have been able to tell the woman that clinical trials were now underway on stem-cell transplants for diabetes. Unfortunately, such work is still years off. Too far away, perhaps, to help her daughter.