Human Exceptionalism

Brave New Britain: Using Tissues in Cloning Without Consent

“The scientists” continually assure us that biotech will be conducted ethically and with full control.  It isn’t now, in my view, but it may soon get worse. Under new rules about to go into effect in the UK, scientists will be able to create cloned human/animal hybrid cloned embryos with tissue already taken from patients, and without their consent.  From the story:

Tens of thousands of samples of human tissue will be offered for use in controversial human/animal hybrid embryo research without the consent of the patients who donated them. New rules coming into force next month will give scientists working on stem cell research access to samples of blood and tissue collected by NHS hospitals during biopsies and treatments, as well as to giant “tissue banks” which built up stores of material before the legislation was introduced.

Ethics experts, patients’ groups and churches described the change as “absolutely frightening” and liable to destroy trust among thousands who donate, whatever their views on the use of hybrid embryos for stem cell research.

While scientists will have to try to gain explicit consent before using cells from such stores, if the samples were collected before 1st October and the donor cannot be tracked down, the experiments will be allowed to go ahead regardless.

We have entered an “anything goes” era, in which there are no permanent boundaries, and where science is becoming an end, not just a means.  And it is only going to move in ever more radical directions as we move toward extending experimental embryos beyond fourteen days and into fetal farming, genetic engineering, even reproductive cloning. My question is whether there is any area of experimentation in this area that the scientists will agree to permanently and forever ban?  My answer is: Nope.