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America's Culture War: Stem-Cell Research

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Price of Human Life

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

A publicity time-bomb has detonated in South Korea. The leading pioneer in stem cell research, Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, has resigned his position because of serious unethical practices. Dr. Suk previously made the news by pressing forward in his efforts to clone a human. He was hailed by many in the media as a leader in stem cell research and human cloning. But his five minutes of fame may have just come to an abrupt end. As Time writer Bryan Walsh recently commented: “For Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, South Korea’s pioneering stem-cell researcher, success comes from a willingness to work harder than anyone else. But his researchers may have taken their dedication too far” (2005). Evidence has come to light that in their haste to create a human clone, Dr. Suk’s laboratory paid female lab assistants and junior lab workers for their eggs. The hospital board chairman, Roh Sung-II, has admitted that he paid $1,500 to these women because there were not enough volunteer donors. After admitting that he had paid about 20 women for their eggs, Roh confessed: “I had to keep it secret” Hwang’s cloning breakthroughs would have been impossible without a steady supply of eggs.

Many of the drugs used to over-stimulate egg production can cause instances of stroke, heart attack, blood clots, and even death. Nevertheless, since scientists cannot experiment without eggs, Dr. Hwang’s own staff members were enlisted. These gross unethical practices are just a glimpse of the truth underlying the abuse in this field. During a news conference, Dr. Hwang removed himself as head of the newly created World Stem Cell Hub and admitted: “Being too focused on scientific development, I may not have seen all the ethical issues related to my research” (Walsh, 2005). A mild understatement! In the push to be the first to clone a human being, Dr. Hwang exploited women and destroyed numerous embryos—for what? Fame and fortune? The field of human cloning and stem cell research continues to attract media attention because of the ethical dilemma of performing research on human embryos. This finding should have lawmakers running at break-neck speed to draft legislation that will prevent the abuse of women and human embryos in future studies. In fact, Christians should call their representatives and let them know they favor the Weldon-Stupak ban on cloning humans (H.R.1357) that is now before Congress. The Senate version is the Brownback-Landrieu bill (S.658). Many countries have already banned human cloning; the United States has yet to do so.

Ironically, Dr. Hwang remains a hero in Korea. As Walsh reported: “Despite the scandal, Hwang, who says he’ll continue his research, remains a hero at home—last week more than 600 Korean women signed up to donate their eggs” (2005). This field of research brought Korea such attention that many are now ready to overlook the abuse in favor of maintaining their status as leaders in the field. How many more ethical atrocities will be overlooked as scientists forge ahead to create a human clone?

REFERENCE

Walsh, Bryan (2005), “A Cloning Cover-Up,” Time, [On-line], URL: http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/article/0,13673,501051205- 1134813,00.html.




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