May 30, 2024

A libertarian looks at stem cells

Radical theories of Murray Rothbard applied to stem cell debate

This falls in the category of bioethical
fantasy rather than bioethical argument, but it was published in the respected
Journal of Medicine and Philosophy. Libertarian academic Walter Block, of Loyola University, in  New Orleans,
has a radical solution to the stalemate over human embryonic stem cell
research. On one side, he says, pro-choice activists argue that embryos are
just biological material. On the other, pro-life activists regard it as fully

Dr Block cuts the Gordian knot with
libertarian reasoning which draws upon the work of Murray Rothbard. Yes, the
foetus is indisputably a child, he says, but children are the quasi-property of
their parents, who are responsible for a valuable asset which they should not
mistreat, but they can dispose of.

Hence the solution: foetuses belong to the
researchers provided that no one else wants to claim them as their own and
raise them:

“Will the
demand on the part of potential adoptive parents outstrip the supply of fetuses
that can be created in the laboratory? If so, then not a single one of them
will be killed, and no research will take licitly place, under the legal regime
we are now considering. Or, will the ability of the medical technicians to
create fetuses in this way overwhelm the willingness of adoptive parents to
bring them up? If so, then some fetuses will be saved, those who are adopted,
and others will be used and/or destroyed in medical research, the ones that
exceed the demand of adoptive parents.” 

Dr Block
acknowledges that his solution is unlikely to be very popular. ~ Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, July 11

Michael Cook
stem cells