Ron Reagan’s Stem Cell Utopia
Ron Reagan, son of the late former president, addressed the nation during the Democrat National Convention Tuesday, July 27, with a plea of voter support for candidates who would support public funding for stem cell research.
Speculations that such investigations could lead to cures for illnesses like Alzheimer’s Disease, which claimed the life of former President Reagan, has fueled his son’s passion for developing this new branch of biomedical technology. It is reasonable to understand the younger Reagan’s devotion to the new technology when the decade-long experience of witnessing his once vigorous father waste away with his chronic illness is taken into consideration.
The decision as to whether new biomedical technologies are developed should not be left to the guidance of passions or emotionally wrenching anecdotes, however. It is incumbent upon this generation to search for the wisdom that can foresee the possible consequences of using and abusing the new technology.
Any such investigation demands that the proper terms and definitions are employed. In Mr. Reagan’s notable and influential speech he said, “Let me try and paint as simple a picture as I can while still doing justice to the science, the incredible science involved.” The proper word to have used in this passage is technology. Making this distinction is not a trivial game in semantics, because those who oppose developing stem cell medical treatments can do so for very scientific reasons. In fact, any moral limits that a community places upon itself are most sound if they are can be validated scientifically.
That is because science is nothing but a process to acquire knowledge, not an institutionalized body of intellectuals or achievements. The scientific process that has helped Western Civilization (once known as Christendom) to advance well beyond its eastern and Arab counterparts is based upon observations, conjecturing (or hypothesizing), as to the cause of the observation, and then setting up a method of experimentation (or theory), to test the conjectures. A simple scientific validation of a moral limit is the dramatically reduced incidence of sexually transmitted diseases among people who do not commit adultery.
Engaging the scientific process to investigate the ethical challenges that can come with stem cell research can begin with examining the source of propagating the stem cells. According to Reagan, those stem cells are a combination of a few cells from a patient seeking stem cell therapy that are then, “placed into a donor egg whose own nucleus has been removed.”
A reasonable question is what is the source of the donor eggs? A reasonable answer is women. It only makes sense, then, to ponder what women? It is a biological fact that each woman produces a certain amount of ovum in her life. Each menstrual cycle brings a woman closer to the end of her fertility. If she has her ovum surgically removed for the sake of providing medical treatments, she further reduces her ability to conceive.
Looking into this truth is not merely an effort to induce women to consider the potential sorrow that can come from the decision to offer ovum to the advancement of medical technology. It is more offered for the sake of considering some of the questions that social scientific history should inspire such as if there have ever been cases that people groups have been targeted for elimination? Wouldn’t limiting the ability of women to procreate help to eliminate various people groups? Can such efforts arise in a modern world of tolerance and sophistication?
These questions do not even begin to contemplate the potential horror that can come with injecting an already infirmed patient with a self-replicating life form that grows beyond its intended purpose. Nor is there consideration given here for who would be able to access such a treatment that would no doubt be very costly – this economic reality, of course, could greatly impact questions regarding the potential use of stem cell technology for the benefit of an elite few at the procreative detriment of common masses.
Certainly, the new technology is going to be developed whether in this country or elsewhere in the world. The challenge is not to enter a race to develop a new technology, but to possess the courage to see how accepting the new technology can concentrate wealth and power to consequently erode justice for all.
Although Mr. Reagan painted a very attractive picture as he carried his audience to a euphoric promise, “Welcome to the future of medicine,” it was, nevertheless, a utopian vision, and utopian visions are often pursued by people who, in Reagan’s words, “are just grinding a political axe.”
August 3, 2004
Since 1993 Bob Strodtbeck has been writing commentaries for The Apopka Chief, a news weekly circulated in a community ten miles north of Orlando. His analyses investigate a wide range of topics from what he calls a “Christian pragmatic” view – that is to say, he considers that human interactions are largely driven by the human instinct toward self-service, which is traditionally known as sin. This perspective has given Bob great liberty to criticize governmental officials from both parties upon the standards of constitutional laws they swear to uphold and review cultural and economic phenomena from moral standards defined in the Bible. Bob currently lives in Orlando with his bride Pam and children Charlotte and Richard. He may be reached for comment here.