Ethicists Plead for Moral Boundaries in Genetics

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 21, 2006 | Go to article overview

Ethicists Plead for Moral Boundaries in Genetics


Byline: Jon Ward, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BALTIMORE - Theologians and ethicists are warning scientists that a new age of genetics including cloning, stem-cell research and genetic engineering may not be as bright as they imagine.

"How seductive is the belief that we can improve human nature by eugenic will," Eric Cohen of the D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center said. "We may make ourselves more miserable and more imperfect."

About 300 scientists, physicians, hospice workers, ethicists and clergy attended a three-day conference at Johns Hopkins University last week titled "What Does It Mean to Be Human?" The conference was sponsored by the National Association of Bioethicists.

Dr. Curt Civin, a leader in embryonic stem-cell research at Johns Hopkins, told the audience to "unlink" concern over embryonic research with "the morality of abortion."

But David Prentice, a bioethics specialist at the Family Research Council, argued that adult stem cells are a better solution to healing chronic and degenerative diseases.

Stem cells are unspecialized cells that hold promise for treating degenerative diseases and spinal cord injuries. Embryonic stem cells are harvested from aborted or discarded fetuses.

Several speakers urged caution in approaching new vistas of scientific knowledge.

"We are at the turning point of extraordinary developments in science and medicine, and if we do not have an underpinning of a moral framework, they will become the catastrophes in the world of humanity in the way that Enron and WorldCom and the others were in the business world," said Ravi Zacharias, an internationally known Christian author and speaker. …

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