Thursday, January 12, 2006

BBC NEWS | Health | Animal eggs 'to grow stem cells'

BBC NEWS Health Animal eggs 'to grow stem cells'

Here is an article which brings up two problems with cloning research.

First, cloning a human requires a human egg. These are in short supply. In fact, if a therapy were to come out of cloning research the need for massive numbers of human eggs might well make it impractical, or, worse, result in pressure to enslave or commodify women for their eggs, especially in societies where women are already subject to discrimination.

To get around the egg problem some scientists are trying to clone with animal eggs - hence this article on human cloning with rabbit eggs. But there are severe ethical problems with combining human parts and animal parts. We do not know the significance of the egg beyond DNA and mitochondria. But in general it is morally suspect to "break" God's categories by combing humans, created in God's image, with animals, which are not.


Lynn Green said...

Not to mention the risk you run of have PETA come in to trash your research lab.

I recognize the ethical problems involved in stem cell research. I do know that women who have eggs stored for the purpose of fertilization store more than needed to have a "back up" in case of a failure. The excess eggs are disposed. If these are usable for stem cell research, I think that this qualifies as an ethical use of biology on the basis that it accomplishes a good with no harm since the eggs would be destroyed otherwise.

Dean McConnell said...

Dear Lynn,
I do not agree that the use of left over eggs is ethical for all purposes. Research or use of the eggs alone might be ok since the egg alone is of little value.

However, just because something is "left over" and destined for death anyway does not always make it suitable for experimentation. It depends on whether what is produced is human. It would be wrong to experiment on "left over" human embryos because of the intrinsic value of human beings.

When the eggs are used in human cloning, a new human being is produced. These new human beings are commonly killed at an early stage of development. This is an unjustified deprivation of life, and as such unethical.

Of course if the newly created humans were implanted in a woman and carried to term that still would be problematic due to the high risk of defects and failure involved with cloning embryos.

In addition, therapies developed using left over eggs would create a demand for eggs that could not be fulfilled using leftover eggs. So developing those therapies would tend to lead to social pressures that will not be good for the equality of women.