Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Killing Two Birds With One Clone [Bob]

I recently wrote on my own blog about the moral questions surrounding organ donation. In a nutshell, the topic has become more morally controversial in recent years as technology -- and a redefinition of what it means to be dead -- have "evolved" with the times. It used to be that one was considered dead when they became cold, blue and stiff. But as medical technology advanced to the point that organ donation became more viable, transplant medicine demanded that vital organs not be degraded beyond a useful state — a state that “cold, blue and stiff” often violates. So, in 1968, a Harvard committee proposed a more updated definition of death based on the brain dead criteria that has become a part of the national lexicon.

Even more recently, another definition of death has been put forward for organ donor candidates. The notion of cardiac death is defined as an “irreversible cessation of cardiac function.” This questionable criterion hinges on the definition of "irreversible," especially when you consider that the heart from one patient who has been labeled thus can be removed and instigated to go on beating in the chest of another patient. In that case, does irreversible mean that "we can't" restore cardiac function, or that we "won't." [re: Salvo, Spring 2009, Issue 8, p. 32]

In each case, there is a dilemma in play that begs us to consider the morality involved in not only choosing between offering one -- or several -- individuals a new lease on life through organ harvesting and taking the life of another by doing so.

These are difficult decisions. At least they have been in the past. But now, thanks to the insight of Sir Richard Gardner of Oxford University, they no longer need be. Gardner has found an ingenious solution to avoid the moral and medical difficulties of organ harvesting by completely bypassing the need to tiptoe along the hazy line that defines death ...
An Oxford University stem cell expert has urged the use of aborted children in organ transplants as a solution to the shortage of available organs. Sir Richard Gardner has called for a feasibility study on the possibility of obtaining organs from the bodies of aborted babies.

He said, "It is probably a more realistic technique in dealing with the shortage of kidney donors than others."


But, as if Gardner's clever solution isn't despicable enough, a careful reading of the announcement shows that there may be a method to his macabre madness and that his outrageous suggestion may be nothing more than floating a trial balloon.

Notice that Dr. Gardner is described as a "stem cell expert."

No doubt he, or someone like him, will soon propose that, in order to mollify the moral objections that the "extremists" may see in using aborted fetuses to harvest body parts, we could avoid all such controversy by creating embryonic stem cells for the specific organs we need to replace. In other words, utilizing IVF embryos or engaging in therapeutic cloning for the purpose of embryo destruction to produce needed organs would be touted as a morally superior option. No ripped up babies! No motivation to abort babies! We'd just be doing "therapy."

This is the place where stem cell research and harvesting organs meet. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that there is a slippery slope here and that we have been on it for many years. Those who have constructed the slope are doing nothing but covering it with grease.

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