A modest proposal about stem cell debates

I have an idea! I’m not really mad about this at the moment, so I don’t think it belongs in the BBQ pit… y’all can like the idea or not, just as you choose. But here it is. What if the only people who were allowed to engage in stem cell debates were people whose lives could be saved/vastly changed for the better by stem cell research? I’m seriously asking. Would this improve the quality of the debate, or not? Maybe they could get expert medical advice to bring to the debates. I mean, this isn’t going to HAPPEN or anything, but would it change anything if it could?

And yep, I’m one of them. Just so you know that it’s not ENTIRELY a theoretical question.

My life could be immeasurably changed by stem cell research - a day I dream about constantly - but it would be a mistake to limit debates to us alone.

I would ask, however, that it be limited to only those who are able to formulate a rational thought, and who do not insist that stem cells are harvested from ABORTED FETUSES, which are then dumped down coal chutes to heat liberals homes in the winter!!!

The question is, whose life would not be vastly changed for the better by stem cell research?

If certain treatments that are potentially in reach were around, my grandmother might be sane and my grandfather might be alive, for example.

People who would be treated by stem cells are not the only ones who can contribute to the debate about it.

And they’re liable to be less objective and dispassionate about the ethical questions involved. If people on death row were the only ones included in a debate about the death penalty, you’d have poll results showing 100% against.

I think that only people affected by debates should set debate rules.

Yes, well, there’s a big problem with that. Let’s be honest: the biggest reason we would dismiss the opinions of people on death row when it comes to the death penalty is that they’ve generally done something against the law that caused them to be there. (Yeah, I know-- I do volunteer work for TCASK sometimes and I did research for a new trial for Philip Workman, actually, but for the sake of this argument, let’s just assume that everyone on death row deserves to be there.) So we make a moral judgment about whether to give their opinions weight, and we decide that we won’t. However, that moral judgment is the real reason why we made that decision. We who need stem cell research most desperately have not done anything wrong or criminal. We are not on death row. We were not sentenced to jail. Objective, we likely aren’t (but does anyone really think that debate on stem cell is really going to be objective, no matter who engages in it?) Even if everybody DOES decide that objectivity on this matter is even possible, the fact still remains that our opinions can’t be dismissed for the same reason you’d dismiss the opinions of death row inmates when it comes to the death penalty.

Okay, we could come up with many, many “what if’s” and “how 'bout’s”, like: “Only military weapons corporations should be involved in federal defense budget debates” and on and on. Perhaps Anise, before we do that, you could support your argument with a few reasons why people not directly impacted by stem cell research should not be allowed to debate the topic.

What about people who’s lives would be affected but don’t know it yet? I may get Parkinson’s in 20 years (or next year, for that matter), but don’t know it yet. My parents may be well on their way to Alzheimer’s, but no symptoms have presented yet. Lastly, my wife may get in a paralyzing auto accident this afternoon. Do I get to participate in the debate? I have no direct need at this precise moment, but who knows what may happen.

I would second Hentor’s suggestion about requiring some grasp of fact though.

Could you please clarify that? I don’t have any young children. Does that mean I have no say in any debate about child exploitation?

(shrugs) The whole problem is that no such thing is ever going to happen (only people affected getting to set the terms of the debate, that is.) I don’t think God is going to come down and make a pronouncement about it, and nobody ELSE is likely to make such a thing happen. In a way, it doesn’t even make much sense to debate whether it SHOULD happen or not, because it WON’T happen. Mostly, I’ve just reached the point of no tolerance with anybody telling me what a bad idea it is if they’re not affected themselves. Sorry. Tolerance all gone now. (And if anybody thinks the same thing wouldn’t happen to them if they suddenly needed the kind of medical help only stem cell research could offer, let me tell you, denial is NOT just a river in Egypt!) It’s pretty much going to stay the same way it is-- a political football debate. The BEST thing that could happen is if the debate was defined by corporations that could make money from it, IMHO, but I don’t even think THAT’S likely to happen.

I disagree.

The stem cell debate has aspects of philosophy, science, religion, medicine, and public policy. I personally would welcome people with expertise in these areas because they might be able to shed some clear-eyed thinking on specific, important aspects of debate. Their contributions may help those with a vested emotional personal interest in the topic (whose views are important, too) see their way clearer through the complex issues.