The promises held out by promoters of human embryonic stem cell research are akin to the empty promises which kept Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, and Toto blissfully following the Yellow Brick Road. Yet, my analogy falls far short of adequately depicting the ethical and scientific blindness, which promoters of human embryonic stem cell research have embraced, in the hope of Oz-like treasures awaiting them in their own Emerald City.
To this new gang of misdirected travelers, Princeton University's Robert George and the University of South Carolina's Christopher Tollefsen offer the Ruby Slippers of "Embryo: A Defense of Human Life." George and Tollefsen remind us that "No one would object to the use of embryonic stem cells in biomedical research or therapy if they could be derived without killing or in any way wronging the embryos. Nor would anyone object to using such cells if they could be obtained using embryos lost in spontaneous abortions" [i.e., miscarriages] (p. 6).
George and Tollefsen masterfully debunk the various misguided ethical and/or junk science attempts to deny the very humanity of human embryos. The resplendent grandeur of ethical and scientific truth glows amidst the falsehoods of con artists - be they the stranded balloonist of Oz or hawkers of human embryonic stem cell research.
Because they are human beings, no one has the right to kill or otherwise wrong human embryos. Unfortunately, George and Tollefsen conclude with political, technological, and cultural recommendations, which do not adequately condemn the barbaric ways in which people of our time have come to treat the youngest members of the human race. They also suggest some alternatives, which have not yet - admittedly - undergone rigorous moral evaluation. I would like to offer an edited version of their recommendations, with which I believe others could concur:
- "The United States should acknowledge, in law, the obligation to protect embryonic human life by prohibiting all embryo-destructive research" (p. 210).
- "The United States should significantly increase federal funding for [morally acceptable] research into...stem cells" (p. 214).
- "The United States should...[ban] the production of human embryos in IVF procedures" (p. 216).