HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, May 27, 2005

Michael Kinsley on Cloning for Research

Sunday's Washington Post ran an interesting column by Michael Kinsley (". . . Fear of the Unknown") about the recently reported South Korean breakthrough in cloning human embryos for stem-cell research and the reactions of Leon Kass to that news.  He begins:

Imagine what it's like to open the newspaper (as I did Friday morning) and read that scientists in faraway South Korea have made a huge breakthrough toward curing a disease that is slowly wrecking your life. But closer to home, your own government is trying to prevent that cure.

The reference in that lead was to Parkinson's, with which Kinsley said in December 2001 he had been diagnosed 8 years earlier.  He was not pleased by Leon Kass' response to reports of the South Koreans' breakthrough:

Leon Kass, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics, greeted this thrilling news with his usual fatuous call for a "moratorium" on the research that produced it while we think through the morality and all that. . . .

But no crash research program is going to produce some dazzling bioethical principle we never thought of before. We know all that we're going to know about the moral issues, and we just have to decide.

For Kinsley, "there are three issues," and all of them are fairly easy to dispose of:

  • "First, do the embryos used for stem cell research and therapy have rights?"
  • "Second, is human cloning such a horrific concept that it crosses a line into the territory of Frankenstein and 'Brave New World'?"
  • "Third, there's the slippery slope. If we're willing to destroy microscopic embryos for their stem cells, why will we stop before harvesting body parts from advanced fetuses, or breeding babies for their organs? Once we allow human cloning for embryos, how can we be sure no one will bring a cloned embryo to term and produce an actual cloned human being?"

Kinsleys answers to all three questions are worth reading.  [tm]

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