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Loaded terms not helpful in bioethics debate.

Dear editor,

Re: Christian voice needed in stem cell debate (October Anglican Journal) Linda Nicholls, writing about biotechnology "play(ing) havoc with the order of creation," deserves a reply. A dear friend died recently of ovarian cancer; she certainly did nothing to bring on the cancer, and it appears to be part of the order of creation, so if biotechnologists can play havoc with this particular part of the order of creation, not to mention various other plagues the flesh is heir to, more power to them.

If ethicists are to be helpful to ordinary human beings they need to come down from the mountain and out of the clouds.

Rules about how long stem cells might be used as "commodities," in research, or for how long embryos might be similarly used, are not all that helpful when it comes down to particular cases. It is also ironic that our society is getting its knickers in a twist about stem cell and embryonic research, when abortions are performed throughout the world, and very few outside the Vatican and its more ardent followers give it a thought.

In a sadly neglected book, The Language of God, Francis S. Collins, director of the Human Genome project, abjures rules but suggests some guidelines for bioethics:

* Autonomy--allow the individual freedom in decision making;

* Justice--treat all persons in a fair, impartial manner;

* Beneficence--treat others in their best interest;

* Nonmaleficence--do no harm.

With due respect to Dr. Collins, I suggest an additional guideline: in debate about ethics avoid the use of loaded terms such as "commodities" for stem cells; or "human life" for embryos in the laboratory or "play(ing) havoc with the created order;" it doesn't really help.

Colin Proudman

Toronto
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Title Annotation:LETTERS
Author:Proudman, Colin
Publication:Anglican Journal
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Nov 1, 2007
Words:286
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