The movie, Multiplicity, starring Michael Keaton is cute and funny. He has copies made of himself, but like copies of copies, the character
and intelligence of the later copies becomes distorted. One of my favorite scenes is when one of the
later copies folds a pancake and places it in his billfold. (Okay, so the screenwriter tells it better
than I.) There are no serious ethical
questions raised, save when one of his copies admits sleeping with Michael’s
wife. But there are plenty of comical complications.
With real-life cloning and genetic manipulation, the consequences and ethics certainly classify as an adventure rather than a comedy genre. Stem Cells have the ability to transform themselves into different cellular types. There are several categories of stem cells – some have universal transformational capabilities and others, more limited. There is also the distinction between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells, the latter coming from blastocyst (see the earlier post – Cloning Marches On) or earlier embryonic division.
The deployment of this technology is controversial. Most would agree that it would be completely ethical to regrow an arm for an automobile accident victim. Many would agree that it would be good to heal someone of a disease. The Michael J Fox Organization has voiced the desire for stem cell research to cure Parkinson’s disease. I think everyone would agree that the elimination of this disease would be an accomplishment for humanity.
It seems that everyone is in agreement about the end. It is just the means to the end that seems to be the debate. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research consider destruction of an embryo to create stem cells as very wrong. See Pro-Life Groups Applaud President Bush on Stem Cell Research, Human Cloning Advocates argue that the use of excess or unwanted embryos would provide healing ( Stem-cell ballot language submitted )without destroying planned human life. It seems to be a fine distinction though, before similar justification of harvesting body parts, as recently reported, India busts alleged kidney transplant ring .
Has there been a parallel to the ethics concerning embryonic stem cells in human history? Or is it that the ethical problem is only in the perception of the opponents?