February 26, 2024

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?


Michael Cook