RE: `genetic engineering', not

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Mon Dec 24 2001 - 21:49:39 MST

At 10:08 PM 12/24/01 -0600, Barbara wrote:

> There's no ethical or practical reason that parents should not be allowed
>to conceive a child and make the decision not to grow the new embryo beyond
>the stage required to save their already-born ill child.

I dunno, that very terminology might entail a moral tangle. `Conceive a
child'? That's a proleptic or forward-casting turn of phrase which seems to
imply that *terminating* the conception would kill or erase an actual
child, when in fact--as *you* imply--all that's happening in the case of
blastocyte tissue harvesting is the equivalent of all those many natural
miscarriages which flush away somewhere between 50 and 80% of natural
conceptions during menstruation. (Not that *this* is a water-tight argument
either; `is' never implies `ought', and dying of Fanconi's anemia is
perfectly `natural' too).

But in the instance I cited, what's planned is to harvest stem cells from
an actual post-birth baby's discarded umbilical cord. So that *does*
require carrying and giving birth to the baby, and is plainly a
mealy-mouthed but perhaps minimax solution satisfactory to, say, Catholic
ethicists and medical specialists alike. It's known to work (whereas, I
think, gathering stem cells from early embryos perhaps isn't yet
established as reliable). And it doesn't kill any baby, proto-baby,
potential baby or gleam in the eye of god--to the contrary. In the short to
medium term, it might well be a solution agreeable to all those who are not
fearful that parents will treat the new kid as a bin of spare parts (which
is, anyway, a psychologically inane dread, in almost all situations I can

Damien Broderick
*although, given some of the bizarre opinions recently spouted on this
list, I'm starting to wonder.

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