Sunday, June 13, 2004

Stem cell rhetoric is a bit misleading

Your letters

In last week's Forum section, University of Minnesota researcher Jeffrey Kahn and pro-life advocate Dr. John Willke addressed the ethics of embryonic stem cell research. We asked you what you thought of the controversial practice, which includes destroying embryos and harvesting their stem cells to treat illnesses, including Alzheimer's disease. The following are some of your responses.

I'm troubled by Jeffrey Kahn's ("Stem research is legal, useful," June 6) view that the legality of human embryonic stem cell research (on otherwise discarded embryos) suggests that it's morally permissible. But I'm stunned at how poorly John Willke ("Research not ethical practice," June 6) expresses his "life begins at conception" view. It's false that there "is an entire human body" once a "sperm enters the ovum and unites its chromosomes with the ovum's."

Indeed, there is only rhetoric in Willke's "argument" for the "life begins at conception" view. And it's irresponsibly misleading rhetoric. Is harmfully misleading rhetoric the best Willke can do?

Robert A. Skipper Jr.
Department of Philosophy,
University of Cincinnati

Yes, life begins at conception

I agree with Dr. John Willke, the Enquirer's guest column on June 6, regarding research on stem cells. To kill "innocent humans in the so far not realized hope of benefiting another" is just another form of abortion, to which I am opposed. It is definitely wrong to kill another by taking advantage of someone's misfortune, if that is their excuse, of being pregnant. Life begins at conception and it's just too bad our U.S. Supreme Court cannot understand this basic concept.

Charles Hayden
Monfort Heights

Don't limit research in U.S.

One man's trash is another man's treasure ...

• The cells being used will never form a human being unless implanted in uterine.

• Fertility clinics dispose of billions of cells after five years.

• Disposed cell lines are the only hope for 125 million suffering Americans. (Parkinson's, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, AIDS, the list is endless)

• Other countries (South Korea) are becoming more medically advanced than the United States.

• Ethics is a question of your beliefs and religious views, the United States was founded on a variety of religious and belief systems and one belief should not dictate our country's future or the health of its citizens.

Laura Kennedy-Hamberg
Colerain Township

Cells' only value is research

No one denies the huge potential in researching stem cells to see if they might cure diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer's. The stems cells in question are those, which were created in fertility clinics to help families who otherwise might not have children. Cells that are no longer needed will be destroyed and thrown out, of no use or value to anyone. These cells must be used for research. If the United States is to maintain a leadership position in medical research, we must fund stem cell research with federal funds.

Tom Youkilis

Use research to save lives

There are many of us who believe that the soul enters the body when the first breath is taken. Remember that when Adam was formed by God his body was undoubtedly perfect but he only became a living soul when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.

There are those who have very narrow ideas of right and wrong; but if a loved one in their family were to fall victim to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or diabetes, I think they would pray for a cure just as the rest of us do. I urge the powers that be to release the stem cells so everyone can look forward to a better future.

Laurine Owens

Use adult stem cells for research

Embryonic stem cell research should be against the law and no federal funds should be used. Killing innocent unborn babies for scientific research is wrong. If we say an embryo's life is less important than an adult with a disease then we head down a slippery slope. Would the aged, disabled and mentally retarded people be deemed good experimental subjects? I believe that God is not for abortion or embryonic stem cell research. Improving or offering a better life at the expense of another is not trusting God's plan. Research should focus on adult stem cells.

Amy Harbert Deason
West Chester

An embryo is not a fetus at that stage

Embryonic stem cells are destroyed if they are not used. I see no ethical distinction between destroying stem cells not needed and donating them for research. There is an urgent medical need to determine if stem cells hold the cure for diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer, heart disease, AIDS, spinal cord injuries and other diseases. The embryo is a potential person and, as such, is in a different category from a fully developed fetus. Different rules should apply.

Anne Kelley

Embrace proven stem research

The 400,000 frozen embryos stored in fertility clinics hold such promise. Instead of their inevitable destruction, these microscopic cells can be developed into stem cell lines that will enable researchers to proceed with the cures for so many devastating diseases. Their potential will restore movement to the paralyzed, and cure Parkinson's, diabetes and Alzheimer's. These stem cells can regenerate organs without the need for organ donors and immunosuppressant drugs.

We have a responsibility to embrace this proven research. Morally, we are obligated to take these cells that are slated for destruction and instead create a route to improve the lives of those desperate for a cure.

Mara Levinson Wolf

Embryos are human, with all rights

The attributes needed to live to adulthood, given a decent opportunity, are complete with fertilization of the egg. Development of the unborn child is part of a human's lifespan, taking place in a special environment. If the fertilized egg comes to term, it is born. Like the embryo, a newborn cannot survive without nurturing. After birth, we continue to develop.

There is no reason to suggest an embryo is not a human with all its rights. To create humans and kill them to harvest tissues (embryonic stem cells) is barbaric, even if their demise comes "respectfully" and legally.

John Mear
Columbia Township

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