Law . . . should more properly serve as a means to preserve the diversity of the communities of meaning.
Stephen L. Carter1
Faith in medical progress has created public dilemmas at both the beginning and end of life. The collective search for meaning in our large and complex society fails to acknowledge the influence of basic social institutions--family, religion, science, medicine, and law--in shaping its intimate concepts. Too often individuals have turned to law, and particularly the United States Supreme Court, to provide some guidance in their search for community. Science also appears to offer guidance. Faith in scientific progress and its alliance with medicine has raised the question of whether individuals--in collaboration with health care professionals in their service--should create life or control death.
Most Americans believe contemporary science provides an institutional perspective that is not susceptible to charges of anti- intellectualism. Thus, the institution of modern science provides the backdrop for the public discourse about life, death, and medicine. For instance, federal regulators recently announced that research on "stem cells," extracted from human embryos, did not violate the congressional ban on using federal funds for human embryo research. Stem cells, un-