Tuesday, December 7, 2004
William Saletan writes in the Dec. 5 Slate that conservatives on the President's Council on Bioethics seem to have latched on to two proposals that would do an end-run around the existing federal rules on funding stem-cell research. One focuses on determining when an embryo could be considered "dead" and therefore a candidate for stem-cell donation, in a manner analogous to the harvesting of organs from the newly dead.
The other "presented by council member William Hurlbut, is exactly the opposite. It's brilliantly, grotesquely unconventional. Hurlbut, an earnest young member of the council's conservative wing, has been working for two years on a scheme to end-run the problem of killing embryos. He seems to be the only person in this debate who has figured out that the Catholic fixation on the technical definition of a human embryo, which stem-cell researchers regard as a roadblock, actually presents an opportunity. Instead of whining about the church's insistence on the continuity of personhood from embryo to adult, Hurlbut has seized on the point of discontinuity: the non-personhood of anything before or less than an embryo. If it isn't an embryo, it's fair game."