Ethics Influencing Science?
this point we should see that ethical factors are beginning to influence the
science. This variant on the second scenario appears to have a slight ethical
advantage. The removal of the DNA nucleus from the donated oocyte might be
considered the destruction of a potential human life; and the insertion of a
DNA nucleus appears to be an asexual creation of a human embryo. We suddenly
find ourselves in the middle of the abortion debate. By beginning with hES
cells, scientists think this debate could be avoided. However, the use of hES
cells does not avoid the embryo problem completely. The Thomson method relies
on destroyed blastocysts as the source for hES cells; and the Gearhart method
relies on aborted fetuses. Much needs to be cleared up here.
primary task, as I see it, will be for scientists and ethicists to agree on the
relevant vocabulary. In particular, the distinction between totipotent and
pluripotent stem cells must be stipulated with sufficient clarityto permit
ethical analysis. Right now it appears that only one attribute distinguishes
them, namely, a totipotent stem cell has the potential for becoming an embryo
and hence a human being, whereas a pluripotent stem cell does not. Yet, we must
ask, why is this the case? Is it because totipotent cells have a genetic
potential lacking in pluripotent cells? No. What distinguishes them is that
totipotent cells have access to a placenta making them available for
implantation; whereas pluripotent stem cells lack placenta access. Will this
distinction hold? We will see.
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| Contributed by: Dr. Ted Peters