If you're not a microbiologist, or if you've just been out of touch with stem-cell issues for the past 6 months, getting back up to speed on the science of stem-cell research and
the regulatory issues and ethical debate can be a daunting matter. The August issue
of the Mayo Clinic (no relation) Proceedings
can get you on top of the issue in an hour.
First, there is "An Overview of Stem Cell Research and Regulatory Issues" by Christopher R. Cogle, MD; Steven M. Guthrie, BS; Ronald C. Sanders, MD; William L. Allen, JD; Edward W. Scott, PhD; and Bryon E. Petersen, PhD. -- a good overview of the science and the public-policy debate.
Second, there's a commentary by Neil D. Teise, MD on "Stem Cell Research: Elephants in the Room," described as an "exceedingly personal" commentary on "issues of scientific methods and sociopolitical situation that impact the science."
Finally -- and likely to generate the most interest in political circles because of the prominence of some of the authors -- there's another commentary by William P. Cheshire, Jr; Edmund D. Pellegrino; Linda K. Bevington; C. Ben Mitchell; Nancy L. Jones; Kevin T. FitzGerald; C. Everett Koop; and John F. Kilner entitled "Stem Cell Research: Why Medicine Should Reject Human Cloning." Although the authors "enthusiastically affirm the importance of medical research and ardently support the goal of healing people," they conclude:
"To rewrite medical ethics to permit human cloning would ensnare physicians in a perilous compromise of professional standards. To acquiesce to human embryonic cloning would be to disregard, to an unprecedented degree, the value of new human life. Human cloning would also represent a decided step toward the devaluing of humanity universally because justifications of human cloning research disturbingly imagine a category of dismissable human
Arguing for a total and permanent ban on both reproductive and research cloning, the authors go beyond the majority position of the President's Council on Bioethics, whose report last July called for a permanent ban on "cloning-to-produce-children" and offered a split decision on "cloning-for-biomedical-research," with 10 members calling for a 4-year moratorium and 7 members supporting "cloning-for-biomedical-research now, while governing it through a prudent and sensible regulatory regime."
life. Such a designation is utterly foreign to the Hippocratic ethic, which respects human beings at all stages of life."