This is a Brave New World being pursued by certain members of the bio-medical research community—and an ugly one. What’s happening there merits our attention. Does anyone care about ethics anymore?
In the late 1980s, as a pre-med major at the University of Pittsburgh, I pulled many all-nighters at Scaife Hall at Pitt’s School of Medicine. My friend Dirk and I knew the only way we would ever make breakfast at the cafeterias at the Towers or Lothrop dorm-halls was by staying up all night studying and then sauntering in zombie-like at 6:00 a.m. for eggs and pancakes. Otherwise, the typical early morning fare for me and my buddies was “O Fries” from the iconic Original Hot Dog Shop, washed down with cheap beer around 2:00 a.m.
Yes, that was a long time ago. But one thing that stays the same—or ought to stay the same—is a basic respect for the sanctity and dignity of human life. To that end, I share this inspiring personal history in service of a point about (of all things) human ethics.
Often during those all-nighters, whether studying for a Microbiology exam or taking my third crack at Genetics, I meandered into the stacks of medical journals. It was super-easy to get pulled away from my Genetics text. More than once I dug into a biomedical ethics journal.
I thought of those ethics when reading an alarming report about scientists at my alma mater using scalps from aborted babies to create “humanized mice” for research. The aborted babies’ bodies came from Magee-Women’s Hospital (where, incidentally, I was born and where our first two children were born) and the University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences Tissue Bank. The mothers of these aborted children had given written consent for their babies’ bodies to be used for research—though surely not in their wildest imagination (or nightmares) could these already-suffering women picture this grotesque result.