Sunday, October 23, 2005

Synergy: Whole greater than sum of its parts

FDA approves first brain stem cell transplant

This is good news. However, there are still comments like this:
Such an experiment showed promise in Batten-afflicted mice, but such an ethically charged test has never been tried before in humans.

"I'm sure there is no threat to anyone's identity," said Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics. "But we are starting down that road."

If I get a new heart or a new liver, am I not the same person that I was before the transplant? If someone with a brain disease (cancer, for example) requires surgery on that brain, are they not the same person coming out of that? Those people who have strokes that are very different afterwards still are the same people as before.

A few cells in an area of the brain that are not related to personality is not going to magically change the person into some mix of half the old person and half the donor person. What makes a person unique is a very complicated mechanism with lots of redundancies that results from emergent behaviors from very complex networks all over the body. It seems silly to think that a few cells with tip the balance in favor of 50% old person and 50% new person. It's just silly.

And then this stuff...
What's more, some of the brain cells to be implanted will be derived from aborted fetuses, which Caplan also said raised ethical concerns for some.

What ethical concerns? It's not like the fetuses can still develop after abortion. Are they worried about fetuses grown specifically for their brain cells?

Have these people ever met someone who could benefit from stem cell transplants? Have these people ever met families and friends of such people? Can they possibly justify slowing down this inevitible research that can do so much for these poor people?

1 comment:

grrrbear said...

The ethical folks are probably just worried that the brain cells of the aborted fetuses will be stronger than the brain cells of the people they are implanted in, and eventually take over the entire brain.

You know - like in "Being John Malkovich" only without the little door.