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Dear Reader:

This is my first time blogging. I was surprised to find out (though a friend, Angela, told me already) that the most recent blogs are found at the top. Makes sense. So I’ve providing an oversight to my published dissertation and I naturally started at the top. You might want to start at the bottom and read your way back to the top.

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Overview-5

The challenges this new biology presents will certainly challenge the way we think about our science, religion, politics, morals, and even ourselves. If those changes can lift a significant percentage of the race to a new level of awareness, in which many of the psyche and physical dysfunctions of the past five millennia can be eliminated, then the ageless objective of maintaining health on the mental, emotional and physical levels would seem more attainable. For now, however, we shall deal with that which is more easily comprehensible and more practicable. I will, therefore, restrict this dissertation to an analysis of the major issues relating to hESCR, and suggest that since the science is already upon us, we must reevaluate old prejudices against certain types of research. From this point, and given time for psychological acclimation to new systems of thought, we may then establish internationally recognized ethical, moral, legal and scientific regulatory research guidelines, which would be highly uniform in application, and which should see us through this millennium and onward.

 B. H. Frazier, S.J.D.

 San Francisco, CA

 February 28, 2009

Overview-4

Chapter VII continues the discussion of law by examining the Intellectual Property (IP) law of the United States (U.S.), the United Kingdom (U.K.), and the European Patent Office (EPO). Though Trademark and Trade secret Law could be useful to hESCR entrepreneurs, Patent Law will be the most immediately useful because it helps induce creativity and inventiveness by giving the patent holder a virtual monopoly allowing him or her, for a limited time, to exclude others from making, using, selling, offering for sale, or importing the claimed invention into the United States. This chapter completes the discussion of the current law, and leads into Chapter VIII, which begins laying the ground work for what the law should be.

Chapter VIII summarizes the main issues, presents arguments in support of and against hESCR, and emphasizes the pros and cons of government funding. Arguments favoring federal government funding claim such funding would allow greater transparence and access to resources, an equitable distribution of any benefits that accrue from the research, and a more sustainable base of funding. Among arguments against government dollars going to such controversial research, are those that claim too many restrictions may be imposed on the research, and that tax dollars should not be used for research that many taxpayers consider objectionable. Chapter IX will explore these arguments and others from a different perspective; the chapter will attempt to nudge our thinking towards a new set of paradigms of possible future events, largely of human making, and which could create new challenges that cannot be solved using more traditional approaches.

Overview-3

By arguing that moral convictions relate to politics and policy formulation, Chapter IV prepares the way for Chapter V, where the discussion turns to the politics and research policies affecting hESCR. Even though many of the issues seem political, I suggest that philosophical and religious morality lie at the heart of the stem cell debate. The chapter concludes with a survey of global stemcell policies, showing that international policies vary from restrictive to permissive, and in many nations, there is no policy. The fifth chapter leads into a discussion of the law pertinent to hESCR; this law is covered in Chapters VI and VII.

Chapter VI discusses national law and international treaties that aim to regulate Human Rights. This is an important discussion because many people insist that a human embryo is fully human from the moment of conception, and thus should be accorded the same moral respect, and thus, legal protection allowed any human being. Several multinational treaties contain provisions that a court, now or at some future date, could interpret as protecting human embryos. In addition, many nations have enacted domestic laws to regulate, or even ban specific practices of hESCR.

Overview-2

Chapter III reviews traditional cell science, and further presents several new perspectives on cell science. Starting with discoveries back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and coming forward to today, our perception of the cell has shifted from our thinking it is a mere cavity—hence the name, to an entity having complex organ systems and means of communication with other cells, and the environment. This chapter also reveals a few of the events that occur when two sex cells combine to form a single precursor cell, which at first seems quite nondescript; nonetheless, it can potentially produce hundreds of types of cells that organize themselves into a young human comprising fifty trillion cellular units. How that precursor cell manages such a feat is what researchers would like to know; for within that process, they believe, is the key to perpetual wellness and perhaps extraordinary longevity. Finally, this chapter discusses what can happen when researchers neglect the more commonly accepted moral and ethical norms.

To add some semblance of clarity to often confusing words, Chapter IV distinguishes between the often interchanged terms ethics and morals, and argues that morality relates to an innate or inculcated sense of right or wrong, while ethics may refer to the study of morality, or may mean guidelines established by professions to govern the conduct of their members. This chapter also examines three well-known philosophical views and explains how these might apply to hESCR. The chapter presents the views of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, and discusses their general positions on hESCR. The chapter also analyzes the ethical and moral issues related to hESCR. The first concern addresses the moral propriety of using nascent human life, ostensibly to save, or enhance, other human life. Other issues debate the morality of using particular sources of embryos for research; among these are aborted human fetuses[1] and those derived from in vitro fertility treatments. The chapter also discusses the moral concerns created by the prospects of commodifying life, which is the selling or offering of biological material for sale, as well as the “buying” of scientific expertise.


[1] Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia; “In humans, a fetus develops from the end of the eighth week after fertilisation when the major structures and organ systems have formed, until birth”; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetus; (last visited 01/29/07). Contrast this definition to the traditional meaning of embryo, which includes the time from conception until roughly the eight week of gestation.

OverView-1

These proposals require presenting a dissertation focused not merely on the law, for such a narrow scope could lead to faulty conclusions. The law is often thought to exist apart from human experience, such as Natural and Eternal Law, for instance, but with respect to social relations, this cannot be all true; instead, I suggest that the species of law, which governs human affairs, is an institutional entity, which prompted by necessity of some sort, is derived from religion, philosophy, ethics, morality, and general convenience. Of course, the law may then be used to enforce or maintain those disciplines. Thus, the backdrop to this dissertation is eclectic in its discussion of issues having from great to minimal bearing on the stemcell debate. We move now to an overview of the material we will cover in the following nine chapters that comprise the body of this work.

Chapter I sets forth an extraordinarily brief, but fair-enough-I-hope, history of medicine, and Chapter II discusses what is called the “Research Imperative.” With respect to the historical perspective, I suggest that medical practice is older than the current human species, and that it has certainly been indispensable to its survival. Furthermore, despite the schism between religion and science, with respect to certain aspects of hESCR, medical practice must have always depended upon knowledge acquired either serendipitously, or by research. Chapter II addresses whether there is a Research Imperative and argues that research is vital to information gathering, which in turn is spurred on by the survival instinct. Related to the research imperative is the question whether there a duty to pursue research, and if so, “to whom might that duty be owed? A further question considers the moral limits of that research; i.e., what are its proper subjects, and what are the limits of experimentation upon those subjects? To answer these questions, I will present solutions based upon a general understanding of religion, philosophy, morality and ethics, and economics.

Academically, the natural progression from an LL.M. leads to an S.J.D.—if that is available, and if one is interested in devoting the time and effort required; but I first shunned the option. Six months later, however, the debate concerning human embryonic stemcell research (hESCR) came to my attention. Although general stem cell research (SCR) had been going on for several decades using animals, and therefore never drawing much public scrutiny, it was not until 1998 that human embryonic stem cells (hESC’s) were isolated from human embryos. This was a significant breakthrough; however, the downside was that the process necessarily destroyed the embryo.

The destruction of the embryo is the primary cause of the current debate, which is typified by philosophical, moral and ethical, religious, economic, and legal issues. An inspection of these issues touched my particular fancy not only for the challenges they presented, but also because they involved interests that yet indulge my mind occasionally, such as law, science, philosophy, and science fiction. I considered this potpourri of issues a worthy scholastic engagement, and therefore, I hastened to consummate the perfect union of scholarship and commitment.

From the viewpoint of a theologian, a moralist, or an ethicist, the crux of the debate concerns the permissibility of hESCR, and if permitted, how should it be regulated? A few scientists will side with the aforementioned individuals; however, many are more likely concerned with the technical aspects involved. Irrespective of background, profession, or moral system, emotional attachment to some concern or another has been the debate’s primary feature; such concerns include allowing the research in the name of scientific or medical advancement, or prohibiting it on account of general moral and ethical concerns. Numerous questions, many of them interrelated, are being exhaustively examined and, thus far, without any solutions having universal appeal. For the legislator, and those who interpret and enforce the law, with respect to legality at least, the questions narrow to the following: (1) what is the law? (2) If there is no law, what should any legislated law be?  Though new law addressing hESCR is proposed and legislated almost daily across the globe, it is yet my humble intention to submit my own proposals suggesting what the law should be.

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