Stem Cells and the Doctor

STEM CELLS AND THE DOCTOR….Charles Krauthammer ? that’s Dr. Krauthammer to you and me ? writes today that he’s in favor of a Senate bill that would allow federal funding for stem cell research that’s performed on embryos which would otherwise be discarded. But then he sounds the alarm over the spectre of….spare body parts:

The real threat to our humanity is the creation of new human life willfully for the sole purpose of making it the means to someone else’s end ? dissecting it for its parts the way we would dissect something with no more moral standing than a mollusk or paramecium. The real Brave New World looming before us is the rise of the industry of human manufacture, where human embryos are created not to produce children ? the purpose of IVF clinics ? but for spare body parts.

Please. Can’t these guys come up with a new schtick? The “spare body parts” bogeyman is getting really old.

For those of us who haven’t scared ourselves into premature senility by watching too many late night movies, therapeutic cloning offers great promise as a way of producing genetically matched stem cells from a donor that can then be used to repair damaged tissue such as bone marrow or brain cells. Yes, those are “body parts,” but it’s a far cry from the image Krauthammer leaves of vast warehouses full of cloned human beings just waiting to be harvested for their precious bodily fluids.

If the time ever comes when a doctor asks me if I want to donate a few of my cells in order to create some bone marrow to cure my leukemia, I’d like to be able to answer “yes.” If Krauthammer doesn’t, that’s fine. But he should cut the “Brave New World” crap and agree that each of us should be allowed to make our own decision on this most personal of matters.

POSTSCRIPT: Also worth noting: Krauthammer’s whitewash of “the president’s sincere and principled” effort to restrict research on stem cell lines in 2001. There was nothing either sincere or principled about it, and Bush knew at the time that there weren’t enough existing stem cell lines to allow meaningful research to go forward. Check out Nicholas Thompson’s “Science Friction” from the July 2003 Monthly for more.