Jay Bullock - and a few e-mailers - think my Journal-Sentinel column on stem cells misses the point. They focus on the recent congressional bill that would lift restrictions on the research use of recently created embryos in IVF clinics. They already exist, the argument goes. The cow is out of the barn and all that.
This actually supports my point. We needn't ask hard questions, they say, because it's a fait accompli. But look at it how this has worked. We permitted research on lines created before 2001. But IVF clinics have continued to create far more embryos than they need so why not use them as well? And if IVF clinics create even more embryos in order to sell them for research, well they were already creating them, why not create more? If it turns out, then, that we need to clone embryos to see if we can get truly effective medical use, we already are creating them for research, why not create one with a patient's precise genetic composition?
And then if it turns out that growing your own genetically matched liver, is just what you need ....
Jay links to a post by a blogger known as Mixter who makes the same point and assumes that embryonic-destructive research might have saved her brother who died, tragically, at a young age from complications associated with spinal cord injury. The hope of curing disease is powerful and important, but it doesn't make the moral questions go away. If what it took to save her brother - or herself - was the creation of babies, perhaps genetically altered to be incapable of higher thought or feeling pain, would that be ok?
Happily, there is some possibility that the dilemma posed by embryonic-destructive research go away because scientists may be about to figure out how to make adult stem cells pluripotent. You can read about it here. But I don't know that this answers the hard questions that are certain to follow.
What is ironic is that the House killed a bill that would have expressed additional support for non-embryo destructive research. It's almost as if the Dems want to start down that slippery slope.