Moral and Legal Questions Term Paper

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[. . .] In reverse order, the supporters of critical legal studies are most represented by the scientists, and those who financially back them. These men and women are pressing on into the work regardless of governmental regulation, or threats over financial assistance. Their view is that this research holds positive benefits for mankind, so it should progress to bring those benefits to the marketplace.

The ethical question over growing and harvesting parts of human beings is entirely overshadowed by press releases that tout miracle cures for dreaded, debilitating diseases. "Should" this research continue is not a question. The question to this group of people is "How" the work will continue. When they can say that, for example, Parkinson's disease has been cured, or that a family never has to loose someone to Alzheimer's disease, then their work will be justified. In light of the President's actions to restrict public funding of the research, private investors are stepping up with their own dollars for research. The news comes just months after the University of California, San Francisco, launched its own program with $5 million from Intel chair Andy Grove.

Society should wonder, however, about the motives behind such decisions. Are these men and women willing to be martyrs in order to cure dreaded disease, or are they in search of a reputation for themselves? Undoubtedly, some involved in this process have been personally touched by conditions which may be relieved by the result of stem cell research. But what questions, or whose rights are being ignored because of their zealous pursuit of personal goals, and/or recognition?

Legal realism is holding judgment in this matter, possibly because society does not have enough empirical evidence to determine the value of stem cell research. Will the targeted diseases be conquered? If so, certainly the benefit to society outweighs the value of the embryos that were brought into existence, killed, and harvested along the course of the research. Once a greater number of citizens are positively affected by the fruit of this labor, certainly there will be the social willingness to convert this matter into a legally protected status. Until then, the jurisprudence of legal realism is turning a blind eye to the argument. By refusing to take a position, however, they are choosing to let the illegal direction of this activity continue unabated.

Unfortunately, the president recently signed into law guidelines overseeing stem cell research which are most closely aligned with legal positivism. He recognized that a Pandora's Box has been opened by this research, and it would be impossible to put everything back into the container, seal it on the basis of absolute moral measurements, and walk away. George Bush attempted to politically please each group by giving them a small portion of what they wanted, while restriction further expansion of the research. He also made broad sweeping statements as to the value of human life, and the belief that no scientific effort should be undertaken which threatens to undermine that value. While the position of the President was understandably difficult, His departure from a position of natural moral law was disappointing. In words he addressed the moral implications of such continuing research, but in action he permitted it, and offered federal funding to encourage its expansion.

By taking a look back into our nation's history, similar arguments can be seen in the public arena in regard to other issues. For example, Supreme Court case ____ decided that people of one particular color and nationality were not people, and therefore not subject to the rights and responsibilities afforded citizens. This group of people, due only to their color, and nationality were property, and could be treated as such be their owners. This decision opened to door into one of the most tumultuous periods of our nation's history. This thought process, which men could be treated as property for the enrichment of other men, became so entrenched in the country's psyche that only a war was able to turn the direction of public opinion, and right the wrongs of hundreds of years of slavery.

Again, in the course of human events a group of people determined that the value of another's life was not equal to their own. This superior race set out, first on a course of medical and scientific research on the subordinate groups. Long before the death camps of Auschwitz, and Buchenwald, Jews and Gypsies were rounded up selectively for the purposes of Nazi experimentation. They were killed, and their brains examined. Untested medicines and questionable research procedures were 'tested' on these groups, because they did not measure to the stature of the controlling political party. Promises of medical understanding and progress were used as justification for these barbaric procedures also. But the only measurable progress was the downward spiral of a national consciousness. When selective experimentation turned into attempts at wholesale extermination, Nazi controlled Germany did nothing to curb its appetite for destruction in the name of social progress.

In 1996, Congress outlawed federal funding for stem cell research that would be harmful to human embryos, and it has maintained that prohibition. The ban was broad, and specific. Public funds could not be used for "research in which a human embryo... was destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death." I clear defiance of the law; the Clinton Administration in conjunction with the National Institute of health (NIH) authorized federal funds for destructive embryo research, saying that public funds would not be used to destroy the embryos, only to pursue the research after the embryos were destroyed.

Three of the four perspectives of jurisprudence share this one element. The truth or validity of a particular societal value is challenged, threatened, or redefined so that the desires of those seeking power can continue. The legal positivist chooses to believe that law is a function of societal desires, no moral good. The legal realist holds to the belief that law is a function of what those in power will support. Therefore those with power ultimately decide the terms of power. The critical legalist is little more than a narcissist, who defiantly determines that his or her own will should be law, and that no expense should be spared in his or her pursuit of that goal.

Only the natural law supporter recognizes that law is a function of moral obligation, and that man is not an amoral creature to determine his own destiny. Mankind is a moral creature, with a natural inclination toward selfish destruction that can only be channeled by submitting to a set of moral codes which are above him. And through this lens, the questions of the ethics of stem cell research come into focus more clearly.

The first question regarding stem cell research is "What are the rights of this being which is brought into existence just to be killed, and harvested?" If this person is a being, then it has the rights of every other being of its kind. Is a human embryo viable? No, it isn't. But after the addition of nothing else but nourishment, and the passage of time, this embryo will become the life it represents.

If this embryonic person has rights, is there another ready source of stem cells so that this research can continue? This question is not even addressed by those who want to make policy, earn recognition, or appease their personal aspirations. The question to them is not whether there is a moral responsibility to their actions. Their actions and future are self determining. Therefore it is morally approved to allow their own desires take precedence over the rights of others which are determined to serve them. How often will this self serving mantra be repeated throughout mankind's history before we learn the lesson, that the harvest of destructive and selfish choices is more socially destructive behavior?

In examining this question for the reference of moral, or natural law, one is forced to balance the rights, needs, and desires of all parties together, and seek a solution that does not trample on any of them. Because all men are created with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the questions are more difficult to answer. The answer may be that I will not gain the attention I seek, or that I will not be able to hold the spotlight of success to myself. But in pursuing a natural law perspective, the rights of every individual is taken into consideration. In the case of stem cell research, it has been discovered that the umbilical cord and the uterus of a pregnant woman is an abundant source of stem cells. These cells could be harvested from a byproduct of natural child birth, and applied into research in the same way as harvested cells are obtained from embryos. It is not necessary to trade the life of one person for the well-being of another.

In men's pursuits to govern, and guide our society,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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