[LETTERS to the editor]Stem cell research must continueClaims about human dignity and morality have been a major hindrance to the development of medical science, specifically stem cell research. Human dignity or morality are not derived from a coherent philosophical framework. Therefore, it is easy to employ it whenever it suits the needs of those who lack suitable arguments for or against whatever they are concerned about. Therefore, we should ask, what is so “immoral” about stem cell research?
During the last century, the average lifespan in industrial nations has doubled, from approximately 40 to 80 years. Scientific research has been a major contributing factor. Stem cell research, too, will be an extraordinary development in human progress. Clearly, the doubling of the average human’s lifespan through medical research is not immoral or against religious beliefs. Therefore, stem cell research, too, should not be regarded as immoral because it will help save lives and prolong the lives of those with incurable diseases.
Some worry that in the future, identical cloned soldiers will be produced, as in the movies. However, this worry ignores something rather basic ― that it would be an extremely inefficient means of production for any dictator. It takes 20 years to create a soldier. They need to be fed. It would also require tens of thousands of women to carry the fetuses of soldiers-to-be to term. In short, it is a cheap hysterical scenario that is impossible to realize.
Moreover, the brain, the most complicated organ and the most important for human continuity, cannot be duplicated from a DNA blueprint. The cloned child will unavoidably be stamped with the physical and psychological impacts of its environment. These reasons make it highly unlikely any parent or dictator would use technology to create a child just like him.
Most embryos used in research are “spare” embryos created as “by-products” of in vitro fertilization (IVF). It is better to make use of such embryos for good purpose rather than destroy them. However, critics still oppose the research on moral grounds, because not all the research has used “spare” embryos. In this specific case, they may have been right in claiming “illegitimacy” of the stem cell research because it did, at times, use embryos formed within the womb. More recently, however, scientists have discovered a way to create human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos. This should be seen as a green light for stem cell research.
Research and development in the field of biotechnology, including stem cell research, will be beneficial to Korea’s economy. We should take the chance to engage in this “blue ocean strategy” before the biotechnology market becomes a “red ocean.”
by Koh Wan-gyu