Wednesday, September 20, 2006
I just read a newly released book called “Stem Cell Wars: Inside Stories from the Frontlines” by Eve Herold. I don’t like the use of war metaphors, especially in the time of real war, even for politically contentious issues. But Palgrave Macmillan knows more about selling books than I do, so I won’t hold it against the book.
More a chronicle of events than hard hitting analysis, Herold methodically provides the reader a primer on stem cell research and cloning, the politics of science during the Bush administration, and the inside story of the South Korean scientific fraud. For those of us who have watched this issue closely, Herold’s account doesn’t provide any new information but her eyewitness reporting style will have appeal to those who have been watching from the sidelines (and wondering what the heck is happening.)
I think the book could have benefited from a more rigorous examination of the ethical issues surrounding stem cell research beyond the “moral status of the embryo.” Perhaps a forward by bioethicists Laurie Zoloth or R. Alta Charo rather than Harvard physician George Q. Daley would have better served the reader. While Herold does touch on it briefly, she seems genuinely confused why some on the political right continue to equate stem cell research with abortion, because, as she correctly points out, stem cell research could continue unabated even if all abortions were outlawed. Or perhaps her editors decided it wasn’t appropriate to further explore how the stem cell war is also about the abortion war, contraception and IVF war, assisted suicide war, Terri Schiavo war and the broader bioethics agenda of the political right.
The most delightful surprise was learning the story of Bernard Siegel, Founder and Executive Director of the Genetics Policy Institute. It is a fascinating story of how one man, compelled by his concern for the welfare of a supposedly “cloned” child, exposed the Raelian media hoax. All in all, the book is an easy read, puts a human face to the issues, and is an important call to stop the politicizing of scientific research in the US.