In a Salon article today, Farhad Marjoo promises to guide us through the politics of stem cells:
Here, then, we present our guide to help you see through the fog created by Bush's publicity ploys: a thorough explainer on stem cell research, and the facts you'll need to follow the upcoming debate. To assemble this FAQ, we spoke to scientists, ethicists and political activists on both sides of the stem cell fight. We can't promise our efforts will lead to a more enlightened stem cell policy -- but perhaps, at least, we may have a debate on the science that's unimpeded by cheap publicity stunts.
It's an informative article, but Marjoo doesn't really elevate the debate here. By continuing to paint this as right-wing fundamentalists vs. left-wing healers of the sick, Salon and other media outlets are neglecting the more subtle, yet still crucial, ethical issues of stem cell research.
A recent press release from the nonprofit Center for Genetics and Society highlights some of them:
"The Castle-DeGette bill is a step in the right direction," said Marcy Darnovsky, the Center's associate executive director. [...]
"Unfortunately, Castle-DeGette does not provide protections against an important conflict-of-interest potential in the assisted reproduction industry. Though it prohibits payments for embryos, it could actually encourage IVF practitioners to retrieve greater numbers of eggs from women than they otherwise would, in order to produce more `leftover' embryos for stem cell research."
Many people who otherwise support embryonic stem cell research, including women's health leaders, are concerned that cloning techniques could harm women who would be called on to provide eggs for research. "The recent results from South Korea may mean that fewer women will be put at risk-but it doesn't solve the problem," said Darnovsky.
Observers also warn that the production of cloned embryos in labs around the word would increase the likelihood of reproductive cloning and of genetically modified humans. "We need national legislation allowing medical research but drawing the line at reproductive cloning and designer babies," said CGS program director Jesse Reynolds. "South Korea and many other countries already have some of the needed laws in place; the U.S. has none. These issues must be resolved before researchers here embark on research cloning."