Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Most scientists concur that human embryonic stem cell research holds considerable promise for advancing human health. In 2004, California voters endorsed a bold initiative (Proposition 71) to fund stem cell research by the issuance of $3 billion in bonds, which will be allocated over a 10 year period to researchers.
However, foundational legal and policy issues remain to be resolved – from intellectual property rights to other ownership issues (e.g., the form of donor consent), to how (and whether) the state of California should expect to recoup its investment in the research, to name just a few. This conference seeks to provide insights and recommendations from leading thinkers that will enable California’s bold initiative to be successful.
A couple of presumptions jumped out at me. First, the conference takes as a given that the health benefits of embryonic stem cell research are largely undisputed and that California's initiative is "bold" (used twice in two paragraphs!) and should be "successful." With premises like these, the conference marginalizes many of the most pressing issues surrounding the initiative. Second, how could the "foundational legal and policy issues" not include any discussion of the ethical or moral dimension of state-funded embryonic stem cell research? Perhaps they just weren't significant enough to include in the description. Or perhaps the conference organizers presume that such questions are not worth exploring in the first place. Or perhaps they presume that such questions are not properly encompassed by a conference on law and policy. The divinity school types need something to talk about at their conferences, I suppose.