Can we please have our laws back?


Hi there,

I hope that you will be generous enough to allow me to indulge one of my pet peeves. Until 2008, for several years, there were fierce debates in the UK, the US, Australia and elsewhere about the morality of research on human embryos.

Eminent scientists around the world appeared on the media and before parliamentary committees demanding funding for their research into human embryonic stem cells. Without it, they declared, sick children will die. Squelch your ethical qualms about destroying human embryos and we will deliver cures and miracle drugs. Most governments listened. They changed the laws.

What has happened? An interview with Harvard scientist George Q. Daley in the latest issue of Nature Medicine gives some insight. In 2007, scientists discovered a new way of creating cells which were functionally equivalent to embryonic stem cells. It was ethically non-controversial because it destroyed no embryos. Within weeks Daley and many others abandoned their embryos and set to work on induced pluripotent stem cells. But the laws still allow them to destroy those embryos.

In other words, governments and the public were scammed. They traded convictions for cures and they lost both. The anguish and desperation were just bargaining chips. I feel that stem cell scientists owe us an apology.

What do you think?

Cheers,

Michael Cook

Editor




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