Economics Helping to Drive Use of Embryos, Warns Ethicist

Cheaper Than Taking Stem Cells From Adults, He Says

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PAMPLONA, Spain, MAY 25, 2004 ( Research with human embryonic stem cells «means to bet on economic rather than ethical criteria,» warns a bioethicist.

Francesco D’Agostino, president of the Italian Bioethics Committee and professor of philosophy of law of the University of Tor Vergata of Rome, delivered that message during a talk here Friday.

After criticizing the recent establishment in England of the world’s first embryonic stem-cell bank, D’Agostino compared research with embryonic, as opposed to adult, stem cells and concluded that, although both can yield the same results, «research with embryonic stem cells is much cheaper.»

«Current thinking consists in choosing between very expensive research, which does not cause any problems from the ethical point of view, or cheaper research, which implies numerous ethical problems,» he said.

«England, clearly, has chosen the economic,» D’Agostino added.

The professor noted that the prevailing utilitarian focus does not allow for the «adequate defense of the dignity of the human person.»

This is especially applicable in the Anglo-Saxon culture, which has identified «the concept of person with an autonomous subject, wholly able to understand and to act,» he added.

Given this attitude, there is a tendency to «deny the fact that fetuses, the elderly, the disabled, etc., are persons with full rights,» D’Agostino lamented. «Utilitarianism implies a convenient evaluation, namely, to decide which persons should be defended and which should not, depending on the cost.»

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