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Harvard Has Considered Morality Of Stem Cell Research

Letters to the Editors

By Aaron Udager

To the editors:

A recent editorial by Mark A. Adomanis about the ethics of therapeutic cloning at Harvard is terribly misinformed (Op-Ed, “Forging Ahead Blindly With Cloning,” March 15).  First and foremost, he criticizes Harvard and Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences Douglas A. Melton specifically, for “[showing] no reluctance to shelve ethical considerations to be at the forefront of stem cell research.”  Furthermore, he claims that, “[Harvard] is already confident in its answers to moral questions—namely, that such questions are not important and need not be seriously considered before proceeding.”

On the contrary, after having taken a course in stem cell biology and cloning from Melton, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, earlier this year (Molecular and Cellular Biology 125, “Stem Cells and Cloning”), I can attest to his careful and thoughtful contemplation of the matter.  In fact, the course’s abstract in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Courses of Instruction specifically states that “ethical and political considerations will not be ignored.” Indeed, in lieu of lecture one day, there was an hour-and-a-half-long discussion about the moral and ethical implications of both reproductive and therapeutic cloning. That he, personally and as a scientist, has come to the conclusion that therapeutic cloning is morally acceptable does not implicitly warrant condemnation, any more than President Bush’s decision to freeze federal funds for such research deserves commendation. That being said, Adomanis and others have a right to be critical about progressivism’s potential disregard for proper ethical consideration, as evidenced by the few scientists around the globe currently attempting to clone human babies. However, none of that research is being done here at Harvard, nor will it in the future.  In fact, several years ago Melton himself was present, with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56, D-Mass. and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., at the announcement ceremony for legislation specifically banning research into human reproductive cloning. Thus, to say that Harvard and its faculty have, without due consideration, “[abrogated their] moral leadership” is absurd.


March 15, 2004

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