Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Pragmatic Use of Embryonic Stem Cells

Embryonic stem cell research was in the news today. (New York Times Article) I doubt the veto will last. Polls say 75% of Americans want embryonic stem cell research so there is little doubt they will eventually get it. I don't think I am being too incendiary to make the comparison to the crimes of my ancestors against the slaves they bought and sold:

Stem Cells and Slavery:

America has always been a pragmatic, business-minded culture. Most of our genocides have been done in name of sober well-doing. We have a history of inventing entities that we call humans but not persons (human things rather than human beings). Then we kill, maim, enslave, banish these “things” in the name of charity or good business.

We tend to invent these “human things” when our fellow humans can be conveniently used to further our goals, and then with clear consciences we go about our violent business. History will always judge us as murderers. We are, but we are not viscous murderers—just practical well-meaning murderers.


Jasmin said...

Good to see you in the blog world!

Interesting juxtaposition between stem cell research and slavery.

It's amazing what language can do to frame our realities. The "things" are so much easier to relegate to the back of our consciences than the "persons" are.

JD said...

For the sake of simplicity, here is the letter I submitted to Senator Frist's Blog:

Dear Dr. Frist,

As your fellow Tennessean and physician I must respectfully but strongly disagree. The idea that terminating any other human being for any potential benefit to ourselves is a direct contradiction to the Pro-Life stance you claim to hold. How do you ask a woman not to kill her 7 week-old fetus which might be greatly convenient to her, if you are killing 7 day-olds for the potential benefits they could give to her if she develops an illness like Parkinson's or Diabetes?

The argument that age, size, or mental-functioning below a certain level open up humans to destruction if their termination is expedient is the very argument used to support killing babies near birth, the sick, the mentally-challenged, or the elderly. You enter a very dangerous slippery-slope as you classify any human individual as a “thing” rather than a “person.” I am sure you are a very intelligent man, but I don't believe you have the right or ability to draw a line excluding any human (even an embryo) from basic human protection. It is this same logic that allowed my ancestors to commit crimes against Blacks, Native Americans, and others they deemed “inferior” in order to make things better for themselves. History has judged them harshly, and I fear it may judge us the same.

As a physician I care deeply about my ill patients, but killing in order to help them is something I cannot do. I urge you not to kill any another human in my name or the name of my patients.

Thank you,
Jonathan Davis MD

JD said...

Now that Senator Frist's blog is no more I took the mention of it out of the body of this post. To make sense of the above letter to the senator, Dr. Frist was the supposedly Pro-Life Senate majority leader that wanted to fund embryonic stem cell research.