Saturday, June 14, 2008

Phyllis Kahn Suggests Embryos Are Property

In a recent commentary piece in the Star Tribune, Minnesota State Representative Phyllis Kahn wrote the linked article below. It's about stem cell research-- in it she states that "owners" knowingly donate embryos for research, so it's okay. Please read her article, and the reply I sent to her via email. I haven't heard back from her so far.
A Fellow Scientist's Response To Your Article

Representative Kahn, I'd like to respectfully offer my reaction to your May 30 article in the ST, regarding stem cell research. I don't follow MN politics very closely; to be honest I had to look up your contact info online and have only read a little of your political background a few minutes ago. I suspect we won't agree on too much, including stem cell research issues. I probably won't be able to debate you very successfully on retroviruses and such; I don't have a PhD in Biophysics, but I do have a PhD in Chemistry so I'd like to think I'm no slouch when it comes to critical technical thinking... :)
I found your use of the term "owner" when referring to donated embryos to be breathtakingly inhumane. If embryos are "owned" by the parents, or I assume by a scientist once they are donated, when and under what circumstances would an embryo no longer be "owned?" What if in fact a particular embryo was implanted and allowed to become a fetus and finally delivered from the womb? Does the scientist still "own" the fully-formed child? Or perhaps the new "owner" is the woman into whose womb the embryo was implanted? When is this child no longer considered property? Considering only an embryo which you assume is "destined for destruction" is a convenient way to set aside these important questions, but a scientist such as yourself has to recognize the problematic logical issues this type of approach presents to us.
You're no doubt very busy and probably get a thousand protest emails a day (or more, perhaps?!) If you could only respond as a fellow scientist to the logic of thinking of embryos as property, I would appreciate your explanation and response. Thanks very much in advance for your time!

1 comment:

Joshua 24:15 said...

A quick update: I have had two exchanges with Representative Kahn after my email to her. I have decided not to publish any of the verbiage, since I did not ask and she thus never agreed to a published conversation. My original email will stand on this blog.

In general, I would say that she has candidly presented the current legal point of view, but I still await a scientific and logical argument for treating human embryos as property. I am disappointed that a legislator with impressive (and relevant to this topic) credentials hasn't answered the question-- perhaps as a public figure she doesn't want to toss out "unofficial" opinions with a nobody like me.