Paul Lauritzen, Stem Cells, Biotechnology, and Human Rights

Article excerpt

Paul Lauritzen, Stem Cells, Biotechnology, and Human Rights, HASTINGS CENTER REP., Mar.-Apr. 2005, at 25.

The author discusses two broad concerns posed by stem cell research and related biotechnological interventions. The first has to do with the prospect of transforming the contours of human life in fairly dramatic ways. The second has to do with our attitudes toward the natural world. As we move to change the meaning of human embodiment in fundamental ways, including the possibility of eroding species boundaries, we need to ask whether we are prepared to reduce the entire natural world to the status of artifact. These concerns raise questions about the meaning of human rights in a post-human future.

Despite the overwhelming questions of embryo status, ultimately the fundamental question raised by stem cell research is not about the embryo. Instead, it is about the future toward which biotechnology beckons us. Does contemporary biotechnology, including stem cell research, open the door to a post-human future? Waldby and Squier raise this question explicitly when they discuss the combination of genetic engineering and stem cell therapy. They suggest that xenotransplantation forces us to confront the prospect of transgressing species boundaries. …