> Laurie Zoloth, Ph. D.
> The Ethics of Stem Cell Research
>Laurie Zoloth is Professor of Ethics and Director of the Program in
>Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University. In 2001, she was
>the President of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities.
>She is a member of the Executive Committee of the International
>Society for Stem Cell Research, and she is the Chair of the newly
>formed Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Bioethics Advisory Board.
>Professor Zoloth is also on the national advisory boards of the
>American Association of the Advancement of Science's Dialogue
>on Science, Ethics and Religion and the Working Group on Human
>Germ-Line Interventions and Stem Cell Research.
>She has published extensively in the areas of ethics, family, feminist
>theory, religion and science, Jewish Studies, and social policy in The
>Hastings Center Report, The Journal of Clinical Ethics, Theoretical
>Medicine, The Cambridge Quarterly, The HEC Forum, Medical Humanities
>Review, The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Tikkun Magazine,
>Judaism, The Journal of Religious Ethics, and has authored chapters
>in 27 books. Her book, Health Care and The Ethics of Encounter, on
>justice, health policy, and the ethics of community, was published in
>1999. She is also co-editor of Notes From a Narrow Ridge: Religion
>and Bioethics, with Dena Davis; Riding on Faith: Religion, Popular
>Culture and the World of Disney, with Simon Harak; Margin of Error:
>The Ethics of Mistakes in Medicine, with Susan Rubin; and The Human
>Embryonic Stem Cell Debate: Ethics, Religion and Policy, with Karen
>LeBacqz and Suzanne Holland.
>Her current research projects include work on both the ethics of
>ordinary life, and the emerging issues in medical and research
>genetics. In 1999 she was invited to give testimony to National
>Bioethics Advisory Board on Jewish philosophy and stem cell research.
>In 2000 she was awarded a NIH ELSI (Ethical Legal and Social Issues
>of the Human Genome) Grant to explore the ethical issues after the
>mapping of the human genome. In 2001, she was named as principle
>investigator for the International Project on Judaism and Genetics,
>co-sponsored by the AAAS, and supported by the Haas Foundation and
>the Greenwall Fund.
>Professor Zoloth will give a brief overview of the science of stem
>cell research and then discuss the ethical issues.
Professor Zoloth began her presentation by explaining that stem cell research seems to be where politics meets ethics meets religion in modern America. To illustrate the point, she contrasted the stem cell debate with the abortion debate. The abortion debate was clearly about religion, but the stem cell debate had much more interesting questions associated with it, such as ambiguity about where life began, and whether manipulating stem cells was actually shaping the possibilities of life.
Zoloth explained that the debate had come to this because Americans had not experienced the reformation the way Europe had. As a result of this and our division between church and state, religion had come to be "everything that isn't state." Science had gotten into the mix when people had learned enough about biology to explain the mechanics of reproduction. It was as a result of this that the Catholic Church had defined the beginning of life as conception in 1859, when they had moved it back to there from about forty days out when a woman had missed her second period in a row.
Zoloth pointed out that it was about a year ago that President Bush had signed legislation decreeing that only stem cell lines that were already being used in Laboratories could be used in the future. It so happens that two-thirds of these lines were from outside the USA, and most of them came from the leftovers of fertility clinics. Because of this, they are not truly representative of the diversity of humanity, since fertility clinics tend to be only visited by rich white people. Could questions about humanity in general be answered using tissue from Israel, where such research is encouraged?
At this point the talk became more of a discussion, where regular TASC members all had points to make about the value of science as a cooperative field as compared to politics where power is always being grabbed. Corn genetics became the center of the discussion, and Professor Zoloth talked about how it has been many, many years since farmers had their own seed corn from one harvest to the next. As someone with her own 25 corn plants in her back yard, she knows full well that the only practical way to grow corn for eating is to buy the seed. Some fear was expressed about being left behind by Countries who could explore the truth because our politicians wanted to bury their heads in the sand.