Thursday 20 July 2006

Attempting to stem the tide of science with one veto

Moral politics stems science

Indeed, there should be ethical concerns related to use of embryos for stem cell research. These issues get assessed time and time again to ensure that the ethics of scientific research does affect moral sensibilities to the extent that it is completely unacceptable to society.

However, some scientific research regardless of the ends they might ultimately achieve can exert the reserves of moral inclinations or religious convictions and sometimes the plain assessment of conscience - but all that has to be weighed in context.

When it comes to the process of procreation as the President of the United States did say we all begin life as a small collection of cells, it is debatable whose moral compass defines the moral boundary that be being crossed.[1]

The value in early life formation

One might definitely see the issue of life beginning at conception rather than the first sign of noticing a pregnancy or at birthday, even though the birth date maintain serious significance to any existence on earth.

This for me is a difficult subject considering I was born at 26 and half weeks just coming to the end of the second trimester of gestation. Even forty years on from then, the viability of babies born at less than 24 weeks [2] is questionable as issues of life first and then that of the quality of life afterwards.

Only recently, scientists discovered that foetuses can feel pain at a lot earlier than the commonly accepted 29 weeks, five weeks earlier in fact.

In five days, Louise Brown would be 28, she was the first test tube baby conceived through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) when human eggs are fertilised outside the body and then transferred to the human's uterus to complete the gestation period.

In January 2007, with all good fortune, we would bear a child having conceived naturally.

IVF - 1977/Stem cell research - 2006

Back in 1977/1978, this issue of test tube babies would have been at the same place we are now with stem cell research - harvesting eggs for unnatural insemination and fertilisation would have had many condemning the heresy, if not the effrontery of man playing God.

The purpose was to bring childbearing to women and families that had heretofore been infertile or to us the more archaic word barren. IVF however, odes not work for every, but it took the work of two doctors Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards to bring this "miracle" of science to pass.

With it came hope for many and obviously, the need for regulation to prevent the abuse of that process. In the UK that is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) this allows for the weighing of the scientific value and ethical boundaries of work carried out in this field without the politicisation or emotive religiosity that could becloud due process.

The science of pressing the boundaries of knowledge

Once can only be thankful that work gets carried out in these fields because the attention to these issues would be part of why consideration was given to my viability at birth and many others like me.

In the same vein, stem cell is still at the point of research and abortion, which is the forceful ejection of a living foetus from the womb within the first trimester, is already enshrined in law.

I do not believe that scientists and researchers would engage in some embryo manufacture for research and mutilation was we have viewed with animal testing, rather, there is a view that some seriously beneficial purpose could be gained from dealing with hereditary illnesses and diseases.

We all already see a minor application of these ideas in blood type matching before transfusion and gene type matching before transplantation of organs amongst other areas of developing medical science.

Powerless against scientific advancement

There is no doubt that the photo-call with housewives and their toddlers at the announcement of Mr George W. Bush's first veto is significant, but thankfully, what the President has done is just to prevent the use of federal money in stem cell research - he is powerless against the advancement of science in that field globally. I am utterly grateful for that.


[1] - Bush vetoes embryonic stem-cell bill

Bush uses veto on stem cell bill

Emotive power of US stem cell debate

Premature babies' disability risk

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