Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Researching Death

As part of my continuing education to keep my PTCB certification, I did a packet of CE's on stem cell research. Granted, this was an "older" packet, dating back to 2008, but the issues raised in my mind are still very relevant today. The basic questions are still asked, "When does life really begin?", "Can we justify killing one person to save another?", and the like, but this time while reading the packet, more came to mind than just that.

Although stem cell research has become the hot button issue in the medical and pharmaceutical industries as of late, I think it starts before that. I think it starts where they say they get their supply. In Vitro Fertilization clinics (IVFC) are where the supply of frozen embryos come from that they then extract and research the stem cells. I think the ethics might start even before that, but for my purposes, that is where I will start. I am still not quite sure why a frozen person is allowed to sit in a freezer for months or even years at a time and the claim is that they are not needed. I know I wouldn't be particularly fond of it if someone put me away until they needed me quite like that.

Then there is the question of why the embryonic stem cells. Unless one wants to make some sort of a political statement, it occurs to me that perhaps the best course of action when something is this controversial is to refrain from using what is controversial. Adult stem cells have shown promise and at the very least might unlock secrets important to the research into stem cells. At the best, it could provide the very fulfillment of the promise that embryonic stem cells seem to hold. The point is, why not try the path of least resistance first? Why not research the adult cells to the furthest they can be and then analyze that? Not that I am saying that the end result would be the death of more innocent children at the hands of "science", but it seems like the possibility has been dismissed because the embryonic stem cells show more promise. Even if that is true, at what cost?

Then there is the even bigger questions that surround this debate. By what standards are ethics judged? Who gets to decide how morals are judged? Why is it okay to question religion and not science? That's one that particularly gets me. Science has been proven wrong- the world isn't flat and you can't fall off the end of it. The earth is not the center of the universe and all the other heavenly bodies don't orbit around it. Science should be weighed equal to religion in this: there needs to be the realization that science can be wrong- science has failed humankind. During the 1918 flu epidemic, a leading scientist theorized that the flu was caused by a bacterial agent and not a virus, and began treating patients with antibiotic medication. The treatment was obviously not effective and a significant portion of the world population was depleted.

If the claim can be used that religion merely misleads people into thinking or believing a fairy tale, the claim should also rightly be used that science has done the same. Yes, science is still growing, and still learning and progressing, however, the theories we are sure are correct today may be laughed at in a few centuries as easily as we dismiss the idea that the earth is flat today. This debate should not have the scales tipped to the side of science because it can be proven. If it was all proven, they wouldn't call it "theory" or "hypothesis" and those words are definitely not synonyms for "fact".