So I think that, in time, this probably will be the final chapter of this particular debate about embryonic stem cells, but I don’t think we’re at the end of it quite yet.
Do you agree with Professor James Thomson, who led the American research team that made this breakthrough, when he maintains that this advance does not, for the time being, abrogate the need for embryonic stem cell research?
Do you believe that they have the same intrinsic worth as a five-year-old child or a 50-year-old man? I don’t think it is right to try to determine an embryo’s intrinsic worth by debating when human life begins.
The question of when life begins is a biological question, and the answer actually is fairly straightforward: The life of an organism begins at conception.
At the same time, many scientists say that embryonic stem cell research is necessary to unlock the promise of stem cell therapies since embryonic stem cells can develop into any cell type in the human body.
In late 2007, researchers in the United States and Japan succeeded in reprogramming adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells.Recently, the Pew Forum sat down with Yuval Levin, author of , to discuss the ethical and moral grounds for opposing embryonic stem cell research.Previously, Levin was the executive director of the President’s Council on Bioethics.That doesn’t mean that I would think of an embryo in the same way that I would think of a three-year-old child, but I would reject a technique that uses either of them for scientific experimentation. The right to life is, in a way, drawn out of the political vocabulary of the Declaration of Independence.So in other words, even though you would grieve the death of a 50-year-old man more than a five-day-old embryo, on at least the most basic level you believe that they both have the same right to life. And so, to my mind, the argument at the heart of the embryonic stem cell debate is the argument about human equality.The new development offers the possibility that the controversy over the use of embryos could end.But many scientists and supporters of embryonic stem cell research caution that this advance has not eliminated the need for embryos, at least for the time being.I think that balance has changed because of this advance, and having an alternative to embryonic stem cell research that achieves the same result will obviously affect the way people think about the ethics of this issue.That doesn’t mean the scientists no longer have any use for embryonic stem cells or even that they won’t have any use for them.The scientific community has reacted very positively to this advancement, which was made in November 2007.There have been many additional scientific studies published on the topic since then, and it appears increasingly likely that the cells produced using skin cells are the equivalent of embryonic stem cells.