(See below for link to article)
When I wrote this, Bush was still President and the overwhelming conservative agenda was – well, overwhelming. Everything related to bioethics and medicine was filtered through that lens.
We’re at a different moment now. I just completed my term on an Embryonic Stem Cell Oversight committee, created to do basically compliance reviews of research involving embryonic stem cells. We had to ascertain if proposed research met the standards – used ‘approved cell lines,’ involved appropriate informed consent from donors, etc. It was strange – all those bioethics and IRB (Internal Review Board) things are. We had this odd narrow view, making sure the research met the requirements for embryonic stem cells, and as I say in this article, that’s so tied up in the abortion issue all else fades away.
We found this hard, many of us on the committee, for a variety of reasons. One day I found myself having to approve a project that involved sacrificing many, many mice. I don’t want to kill mice. They’re cute. And harmless. They weren’t even in my kitchen making pests of themselves – they’d been bred specifically to die for science. Do I want their blood on my hands? (Laugh all you want. I had to actually say out loud that it was OK, that the research project passed standards. There’s probably a hell in which I’ll have to explain that to mice) Other people had hard times with projects that maybe did and maybe didn’t come off so clean on the specific embryonic stem cell issues – the project could possibly lead to cures for some horrible disease that little babies were dying of, right across the street in the hospital. You want to say NO to something that just involves cells on a dish because you’re not sure of the origin of the cell line, if it was or wasn’t one of the ones Bush ‘grandfathered’ in? Could you say NO to something that could save little babies’ lives because of a technicality?
I found that committee endlessly difficult – forever arguing about the most trivial of issues while the most significant passed us by, not our purview, someone else’s jurisdiction. But as long as Bush was President, as long as the conservative agenda dominated biomedicine, I felt I had to stick around.
Thanks Obama! I owe you one.
Read article here.