The Philosopher's Eye

News and brain candy for the philosophy community

The fight about the cell is going on and on.

Stem cell research, especially when conducted from embryonic stem cells, is a hotly debated topic for a long time already. The point of view from science and medicine is that embryonic stem cell research is necessary and ultimately very benefiting to a lot of very, and often chronically, sick people, children and adults alike. If we look at it from an ethical point of view, stem cell research was for a long time fraught with problems. Using embryonic stem cells means that the embryo from which they are harvested, is not able to live anymore and will be discarded at the end. The embryos used in these cases are embryos from parents who allowed them to be used for research purposes. Many European countries have accepted the fact that the embryos will be discarded but see the benefit of the research and the possible cures it can provide and therefore have allowed the research under strict rule and guidelines. The U.S. had done so to a certain degree under President Bush and to an even larger degree under President Obama. Now a federal district judge of the District of Columbia, Chief Judge Royce C. Lambert once again blocked the expansion of that research with the argument that federal money cannot be spend on destroying life. This is stated in an annually passed law called the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Every research centre and lab now has to worry about their grants and the bulk of their research already conducted, since it could end up being illegal under the new ruling. Those who are working on embryonic stem cells, and those who are making the laws about this research often have to listen to the argument that they are having an utilitarian approach, making a small amount of people suffer for the benefit of the many. But we should know better then that. It is not true that the embryos, who most often would be discarded after some time anyways when parents decide that they do not want to have any more children, are suffering. Quite to the contrary, instead of just senselessly destroying them, using the stem cells to research and develop cures gives them sense and purpose. But the story goes on. Two scientists who are working on adult stem cells started the whole re-assessment of the executive order given by President Obama. Looking closely then, it is much less clear if the whole process was started to save unborn human beings from a sure fate or if it was solely started to advance a rivaling school of research?

Related articles:
New York Times article: U.S. Judge Rules against Obama’s stem cell policy

Objectivity in Law
By Veronica Rodriguez-Blanco, University of Birmingham
Vol. 5, March 2010
Philosophy Compass

Are Human Rights Essentially Triggers for Invervention?
By John Tasioulas, University of Oxford
Vol. 4, December 2009
Philosophy Compass

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