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Teaching American Political Institutions Using Role-playing Simulations
Unformatted Document Text:  36 albeit at high cost, thousands of individuals. But organ transplants are terribly expensive, and always rationed, and the risks considerable. Stem cell research is aimed at a wider community of vulnerable patients, and at no one particular category, age, ethnicity, or class. The sort of injury and diseases that stem cells are indicated for are not boutique, or rare--cell death and cell growth is at the core of nearly all disorders. Research into these essential causes would be precisely the sort of research we ought to insist on. Further, understanding how embryonic cells are programmed and reprogrammed might allow us to understand how to de-program cells, allowing adult cells to regenerate, teaching the body to heal itself. The demand for justice and the scrutiny to which genetic medicine is given are indications that we understand the power of genetics to reconfigure the self, and the society--in this way, the very debate about stem cells forces precisely the justice considerations that I would argue must be a part of medicine. The principle of justice places a priority on the public aspects of research--on public funding and on public oversight review boards for protocols. I think we can come to some agreement—around the duties of just medicine, and just science, and we have in the past come to agree on the how we must treat human research subjects and regulate that process, but I think we cannot come to some sort of agreement on what most divides us today—when human life begins, for this is a profoundly religious question in a profoundly religious country, profoundly dedicated to the proposition the our freedom to faithfully interpret our faith is the core of American life. For nearly all Jews, most Muslims, many Buddhists, and many Protestants, it is not only permissible to use human blastocysts to create stem cell lines, it is morally imperative—it must be done if it can lead to saving lives or healing. As an orthodox Jew, I understand the blastocyst, made in the lab, at the very first stages of division, prior to the time it could even successfully be transferred to a women’s body as just what it is at that moment: a cluster of primitive cells. It does not have the moral status of a human child—it lacks a mother’s womb, it existence is only theoretical without this, and even in the course of a normal pregnancy a blastocyst at 3 days is far before our tradition considers it a human person. While I respect that this is a difference in theology, and while I understand the passion and the conviction of those for whom the blastocyst is a person from the moment of fertilization, I do not believe this, and it is matter of faith for me as well. My passion and my conviction are toward the suffering of the one I see in need, ill, or wounded—for Jews and Muslims, the commandment to attend to this suffering is core to our faiths. Jewish organizations from Hadassah to the rabbinic and lay boards of all national Jewish denominations speak in one voice on this matter: human embryonic stem cell research is an activity of pekuah nefesh, saving and healing broken lives, and of tikkun olam—repairing an unfinished natural world. What are you to do, as leaders of our polity when we will not compromise faith positions? I suggest we must learn to compromise our faith policies—we do for other deeply felt issues and we must in this case as well. For example: we did not agree when life ended, but when heart transplants became a possibility, Harvard convened a committee to set criteria for ―brain death‖ –an imperfect, biologically ragged, but useable compromise that allowed transplant research to develop. The US leads the world in successful transplant surgical techniques—and yet some faiths do not agree on these criteria. We do not agree on prenatal diagnosis, yet this is widely done, as is IVF even if it means embryos are destroyed to get one successful pregnancy. We do not agree, but we publicly fund and publicly go forward with research about these polices and we allow each family and physician to make private choices. We do this by a combination of courage and compromise—you shape our policy in different ways: Republicans in one way, Democrats in another, but both allow for research to go forward with limits, based in time, or geography. Now it is time to revisit these limits. In the last six month, I have traveled to three countries to look at their stem cell research and meet with their scientists: Israel, England and Korea. In each of these places, I also met with the bioethicists, philosophers, legal scholars and theologians who reflect on the research—who have demanded the same

Authors: Gonzales, Angelo.
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36
albeit at high cost, thousands of individuals. But organ transplants are terribly expensive, and always
rationed, and the risks considerable. Stem cell research is aimed at a wider community of vulnerable
patients, and at no one particular category, age, ethnicity, or class.
The sort of injury and diseases that
stem cells are indicated for are not boutique, or rare--cell death and cell growth is at the core of nearly all
disorders. Research into these essential causes would be precisely the sort of research we ought to insist
on. Further, understanding how embryonic cells are programmed and reprogrammed might allow us to
understand how to de-program cells, allowing adult cells to regenerate, teaching the body to heal itself.
The demand for justice and the scrutiny to which genetic medicine is given are indications that we
understand the power of genetics to reconfigure the self, and the society--in this way, the very debate
about stem cells forces precisely the justice considerations that I would argue must be a part of medicine.
The principle of justice places a priority on the public aspects of research--on public funding and on
public oversight review boards for protocols.
I think we can come to some agreement—around the duties of just medicine, and just science, and we
have in the past come to agree on the how we must treat human research subjects and regulate that
process, but I think we cannot come to some sort of agreement on what most divides us today—
when human life begins, for this is a profoundly religious question in a profoundly religious
country, profoundly dedicated to the proposition the our freedom to faithfully interpret our faith is
the core of American life.
For nearly all Jews, most Muslims, many Buddhists, and many Protestants, it
is not only permissible to use human blastocysts to create stem cell lines, it is morally imperative—it
must be done if it can lead to saving lives or healing. As an orthodox Jew, I understand the blastocyst,
made in the lab, at the very first stages of division, prior to the time it could even successfully be
transferred to a women’s body as just what it is at that moment: a cluster of primitive cells. It does
not have the moral status of a human child
—it lacks a mother’s womb, it existence is only theoretical
without this, and even in the course of a normal pregnancy a blastocyst at 3 days is far before our tradition
considers it a human person. While I respect that this is a difference in theology, and while I understand
the passion and the conviction of those for whom the blastocyst is a person from the moment of
fertilization, I do not believe this, and it is matter of faith for me as well. My passion and my conviction
are toward the suffering of the one I see in need, ill, or wounded
—for Jews and Muslims, the
commandment to attend to this suffering is core to our faiths. Jewish organizations from Hadassah to the
rabbinic and lay boards of all national Jewish denominations speak in one voice on this matter: human
embryonic stem cell research is an activity of pekuah nefesh, saving and healing broken lives, and of
tikkun olam—repairing an unfinished natural world.
What are you to do, as leaders of our polity when we will not compromise faith positions? I suggest
we must learn to compromise our faith policies—we do for other deeply felt issues and we must in
this case as well.
For example: we did not agree when life ended, but when heart transplants became a
possibility, Harvard convened a committee to set criteria for ―brain death‖ –an imperfect, biologically
ragged, but useable compromise that allowed transplant research to develop. The US leads the world in
successful transplant surgical techniques—and yet some faiths do not agree on these criteria. We do not
agree on prenatal diagnosis, yet this is widely done, as is IVF even if it means embryos are destroyed to
get one successful pregnancy. We do not agree, but we publicly fund and publicly go forward with
research about these polices and we allow each family and physician to make private choices. We do this
by a combination of courage and compromise—you shape our policy in different ways: Republicans in
one way, Democrats in another, but both allow for research to go forward with limits, based in time, or
geography. Now it is time to revisit these limits.
In the last six month, I have traveled to three countries to look at their stem cell research and meet with
their scientists: Israel, England and Korea. In each of these places, I also met with the bioethicists,
philosophers, legal scholars and theologians who reflect on the research—who have demanded the same


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