The Corner

Point of Ethics

I guess no-one will be falling off his chair to hear that I don’t have a

problem with the use of embryonic stem cells for research, and consider the

embryos thus used to be getting “destroyed,” not “killed.” The contrary

point of view doesn’t strike me as preposterous or ill-motivated; I just

don’t agree with it.

I therefore pose the following question in a spirit of honest inquiry. I

suppose it must have been worked over by people who discuss these things a

lot, but I just haven’t seen anything on it myself, not being one of those


Suppose some foreign country — South Korea, perhaps — using embryonic stem

cells, develops a wonder drug that cures some awful crippling disease or

condition. Suppose they then market this drug internationally. Should the

FDA admit the drug to this country? If they do, and a person takes it to

cure that disease or condition (or if they don’t, and the sufferer travels

abroad to be treated) has that person done a wrong thing?

There is a sect — I forget which one — that gets into trouble from time to

time (or used to — I haven’t heard of this recently) because one of its

adherents refuses to let his child take a blood transfusion, believing that

blood transfusions are immoral. The child dies, there’s a prosecution, etc.

etc. Would we be in the same kind of ethical territory here with a wonder

drug derived from embryonic stem cell research? Would right-to-lifers be

willing to make similar sacrifices? Would they try to force those

sacrifices on the rest of us?


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