Here’s the first solid breakthrough in stem cell research that federally funded U.S. investigators will not be able to take advantage of. The Scotsman online newspaper reports that U.K. scientists have isolated embryonic stem cells that contain the genetic defect that causes cystic fibrosis–one of the worst inherited-disease killers. “CF clogs the lungs and other organs in the body with thick, sticky mucus, triggering repeated infections which ultimately lead to death.” The thought is that researchers will now be able to work much more directly on finding a cure for CF.
China has already sworn to step up its work in stem cell research because the U.S. is hesitating. The U.K. just recently announced a 1-year experimental trial period of allowing this research–which may be why this particular development is just being reported (since they produced the cells originally a year ago and have since been reproducing them to the tune of millions).
No doubt there is good reason to go slowly in this area; the potential for misuse is horrifyingly real. But maybe the U.S. doesn’t have to be first in everything anyway. But we will certainly be beneficiaries of the things that are learned with this research. So does it make it okay to benefit from the work, even if we didn’t do it ourselves? Where does this put us on the moral scale (which is the whole objection that’s being put forth against doing this work)?
In the world of logic, if a and b, then c, etc., etc., it seems clear that if you take advantage of what is learned from something you objected to philosophically, you’ve just condoned the behavior. So is the U.S. going to ban the eventual curing of people with CF because the cure was discovered through the use of embryonic stem cells? Highly doubtful. So is this all just a game of semantics after all?