Monday, December 03, 2007

Drawing lines

This evening, browsing Google News, I clicked on a story headline simply because its title is so arresting: "Bush got it right on stem cells". Before this evening, I did not know who is Charles Krauthammer, the author of the story; so I didn't know whether he falls under the 'conservative', 'neocon' or 'leftist' inclination, but the title itself is simply provocative. It is very rare to hear President Bush being praised for anything these days.

In the last few weeks, anyone who's watching the bioethics field, or is simply curious about the latest scientific breakthrough, must have heard of some wonderful news about IPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells)—which are essentially stem cells that did not come from embryos and therefore did not involve killing of anyone.

Soon after this breaking news, there came another piece of even better news: IPS cells that were not created using a protooncogene, which earlier was used and was feared to induce cancer in the subjects.

Since I'm not American and do not pay taxes to the US, I have no comments regarding her president; only that Bush was right to make the stem cell issue a moral issue and draw a line. The Catholic Church, whose teaching I subscribe to, is unambiguous on this issue: life begins at conception, therefore harvesting stem cells from embryos is equivalent to killing of innocent lives, always an intrinsically grave evil.

While Krauthammer himself is in favor of a more 'liberal' policy on ESC research, he rightly pointed out that the slope is very slippery. He reiterated the need to draw a firm line, and pointed the dubious examples of 'populist' politicians who kept continuously re-drawing and 'retreating' their positions. If nothing else, Bush earned a place in American history through this one policy.

What, thought, what if, the IPS breakthrough had not come about? Prior to them, there have always been other sources of "adult" stem cells, such as those that are obtained from umbilical cord blood cells. Bottomline is, no good end can ever justify evil means.

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