SharksWithLasers -- Seth Cooper

A CUTTING-EDGE BLOG FOR THE WORLD OF THE 21st CENTURY, Currently operated by Seth L. Cooper, a 27 year-old attorney in Seattle (sethlcooper at comcast dot net)

Monday, April 04, 2005

BRINGING CLARITY TO THE WA STATE CLONING DEBATE. Engrossed House Bill 1268 is a legislative endorsement of human cloning. Previously blogged about here (and later, here), this disturbing bill leaves the door wide open for unethical experiments involving fetal farming and the creation of animal-human hybrid species or sub-species.

In a deceptive twist, the bill claims that the cloning of human beings conflicts with the policies of the state. This is subterfuge. The bill’s text includes a political re-definition of “cloning of a human being.” The only thing EHB 1268 purports to look down upon is the act of giving birth to a cloned human being.

EHB 1268 is now before the Senate Ways & Means Committee. It was passed out of the Senate Labor, Commerce, Research & Development Committee last week. Sen. Jeannie Kohl-Welles, who had sponsored a cloning bill of her own, is the Chair of the Senate LCRD Committee. It was Sen. Kohl-Welles who demonstrated her unwillingness to deal with the facts in a February 8 hearing over the now-dead SB 5594:

(SEN. FRANKLIN: Asks medical doctor Sharon Quick, M.D. a question about embryonic stem cells.)

DR. QUICK: Embryonic stem cells can be derived from either cloned or non-cloned embryos, such as in intro vitro fertilization. And so the embryo is formed at the one cell stage, when you have the union of an egg and a sperm, or in the case of a cloned embryo you have a body cell that’s combined with an egg that’s had its nucleus removed. So in either of those cases you have a one-celled embryo with a full compliment DNA. Then the embryo is grown and developed to about the five-to-seven day stage, at which point it can either be implanted into a womb—for the purpose of life—or it can be destroyed and then its stem cells are grown in a Petri dish. And that’s the so-called embryonic stem cell line, which can either be a cloned embryonic stem cell line or it can be a non-cloned embryonic stem cell line. Embryonic stem cells require the destruction of a human life, whereas adult stem cells are taken from adults, from children, from umbilical chord blood or from placenta, and they do not require the destruction of human life—

SEN KOHL-WELLES: --Dr. Quick, thank you very much, that’s—that is one perspective on it. There are other perspectives which we’ll likely hear, later on. Thank you all for being here today. We’re going to on to our next bill…

Is it just “one perspective” that destroying embryonic stem cells for harvesting involves the destruction of human life? Does the science not matter? Is Sen. Kohl-Welles abandoning scientific understanding for post-modernism? Some persons might even argue (wrongly, in my view) that embryos do not have full “personhood”—but WHO can deny that human embryos are human life? (If human embryos weren’t really “human” or “human life,” then it wouldn’t be wrong to eat them, would it?)

(The audio can be found by searching here. That part of the exchange takes place approximately 1:06:30 into the Feb. 8 hearing.)

Dr. Leon Kass, Chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, has pointed out the difficulties inherent in arguing that all human embryos have an absolute “right to life”—i.e., a right to be implanted in a womb and gestated. But Dr. Kass makes abundantly clear that human embryos are human life, and entitled to respect and dignity.

Let me re-emphasize that last part of that committee hearing exchange:

DR. QUICK: Embryonic stem cells require the destruction of a human life, whereas adult stem cells are taken from adults, from children, from umbilical chord blood or from placenta, and they do not require the destruction of human life—

SEN. KOHL-WELLES: …that’s—that is one perspective on it.”

Most people would consider it self-evident that human life is entitled to respectful and dignified treatment, simply because it’s human. Should Sen. Kohl-Welles have us instead believe this merely amounts to “one perspective”?

It is easy to get sidetracked by bringing other issues into this debate. But a large consensus can be reached on this point: it is wrong to create a category of human life that is grown just so that it will be destroyed for its material resources. EHB 1268, however, comes to the opposite conclusion.

Greater attention is now being brought to this troubling type of legislation. Whereas SSB 5594 passed the Senate LCRD Committee without opposition, a minority of the committee gave a “do not pass” recommendation to EHB 1268 last week.

On March 26, Sound Politics contributor Marsha Richards interviewed Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith. The two had an interesting discussion on number of bioethical issues, including cloning and EHB 1268. The audio of that conversation can be found online (here).

Tomorrow (Tuesday), Smith will be speaking at Seattle University School of Law. The title of his NOON talk is “Contemporary Bioethics: Creating a Disposable Caste?” The event is sponsored by the SU Chapter of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies, with the SU Health Law Society co-sponsoring. (Further details here.)

In addition to EHB 1268, E2SSB 5581—the life sciences discovery fund bill—also contains the same type of problematic laguage about cloning. There may be much to commend in E2SSB 5581, as invstment in medical science and the growing field of biotechnology have an abundance of benefits to offer humanity. But in its current form, the bill presents the same sort of problems as EHB 1268. Amendments are badly needed for both bills. Amendments containing GENUINE bans on all forms of human cloning would make such legislation acceptable.

(Cross-blogged at Sound Politics.)

(Downtown Seattle, WA)


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