georgeembryoethics - Robert P. George Embryo ethics f we...

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f we were to contemplate killing men- tally handicapped infants to obtain transplantable organs, no one would characterize the controversy that would erupt as a debate about organ transplan- tation. The dispute would be about the ethics of killing handicapped children to harvest their vital organs. We could not resolve the issue by considering how many gravely ill people we could save by extracting a heart, two kidneys, a liver, etc., from each mentally handicapped child. Instead, we would have to answer this question: is it right to relegate a cer- tain class of human beings–the handi- capped–to the status of objects that can be killed and dissected to bene½t others? By the same token, strictly speaking ours is not a debate about stem cell re- search. No one would object to the use of pluripotent stem cells in biomedical research or therapy if they could be ob- tained from non-embryonic sources, or if they could be acquired by using em- bryos lost in miscarriages. 1 The point of Dædalus Winter 2008 23 Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Ju- risprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He is coauthor of “Body- Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Poli- tics” (2008) and “Embryo: The Case for Human Life” (2008). He is a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics and formerly served on the United States Commission on Civil Rights. © 2008 by the American Academy of Arts Robert P. George Embryo ethics 1 It appears that we will soon be able to ob- tain embryonic stem cells, or their equivalent, by means that do not require the destruction of human embryos. Important successes in producing pluripotent stem cell lines by repro- gramming (or ‘de-differentiating’) human so- matic cells have been reported in highly publi- cized papers by James A. Thomson’s research group, “Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells,” Sciencex- press , November 2007/ 10.1126science.1151526, and Shinya Ya- manaka’ s research group, “Induction of Pluri- potent Stem Cells from Adult Fibroblasts by De½ned Factors,” Cell (published online, No- vember 20, 2007). Citing these successes, Ian Wilmut of Edinburgh University, who is credit- ed with producing Dolly the sheep by cloning, has decided not to pursue a license granted by British authorities to attempt to produce cloned human embryos for use in biomedical research. According to Wilmut, embryo-destructive means of producing the desired stem cells will be unnecessary: “The odds are that by the time we make nuclear transfer [cloning] work in hu- mans, direct reprogramming will work too. I am anticipating that before too long we will be able to use the Yamanaka approach to achieve the same, without making human embryos.” Wilmut is quoted in Roger High½eld, “Dolly Creator Ian Wilmut Shuns Cloning,” Telegraph.
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This note was uploaded on 02/28/2011 for the course REL 261 taught by Professor Erics.gregory during the Fall '09 term at Princeton.

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georgeembryoethics - Robert P. George Embryo ethics f we...

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