Demythologizing the Stem Cell Juggernaut

Daniel Callahan

in The Roots of Bioethics

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199931378
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980598 | DOI:
Demythologizing the Stem Cell Juggernaut

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The advent of embryonic cell research in the late 1990s generated enormous controversy, pitting research advocates against those who believe it unethical to destroy embryos to harvest stem cells. The research advocacy cause was fueled by enthusiastic claims of the potential lives to be saved by the research, and how wrong it would be to deny clinical access to its millions of possible beneficiaries. This chapter examines that campaign, noting the way it has followed a classical script, originated after WWII, to gain federal research funds. It also notes that the National Institutes of Health is already spending billions of dollars each year in pursuit of cures for the very same conditions that would be the target of embryonic research. Thus, it cannot be said those conditions are being neglected. At issue is what this chapter calls “the research imperative,” that of a supposed moral obligation to pursue medical research. Research is a good, not an imperative. If the moral standing of embryos is weak, the moral standing of research is even weaker.

Keywords: embryonic stem cells; politics-research obligations; alternatives; hype

Chapter.  8014 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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