Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues

Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues

Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues

Fundamentals of the Stem Cell Debate: The Scientific, Religious, Ethical, and Political Issues

Synopsis

Few recent advances in science have generated as much excitement and controversy as human embryonic stem cells. The potential of these cells to replace diseased or damaged cells in virtually every tissue of the body heralds the advent of an extraordinary new field of medicine. Controversy arises, however, because current techniques required to harvest stem cells involve the destruction of the human blastocyst. This even-handed, lucidly written volume is an essential tool for understanding the complex issues--scientific, religious, ethical, and political--that currently fuel public debate about stem cell research. One of the few books to provide a comprehensive overview for a wide audience, the volume brings together leading scientists, ethicists, political scientists, and doctors to explain this new scientific development and explore its ramifications.

Excerpt

Few advances in science have generated as much excitement and public debate as the discovery of human embryonic stem cells. The potential of these cells to replace diseased or damaged cells in virtually every tissue of the body heralds the advent of an extraordinary new field of medicine that promises cures for diseases until now thought incurable. These remarkable cells, therefore, have captured the imagination of scientists and clinicians alike and have given patients a renewed sense of hope.

Controversy exists, however, because the current technique to harvest these cells involves destruction of the human blastocyst, a pre-embryo, whether obtained by in vitro fertilization or by therapeutic cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer). Too often, debate over the use of embryonic stem cells forces discussion into two extreme positions. One camp argues that we must either allow all stem cell research all the time or consider ourselves responsible for failing to prevent the suffering and death of untold millions of human beings. The other camp argues that the use of embryonic stem cells amounts to mass murder of young life. We wish to avoid such polarizing debate, which oversimplifies complex issues, demonizes people of goodwill who hold differing opinions, and inflames rather than informs policy discussions.

We do recognize the passion in the debate, however, and our discussions in this volume respect the intensity of belief. While we do not speak . . .

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