Frank Pasquale


Abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty have sparked emotional public debates for the past three decades. Just as these controversies over life-termination have forced us to think systematically about ethics in the public domain, new technologies of life-extension will provoke controversy in the twenty-first century. Known generally as regenerative medicine, the new health care seeks not only to cure disease but to arrest the aging process itself.

So far, public attention to regenerative medicine has focused on two of its methods: embryonic stem-cell research and therapeutic cloning. Since both processes manipulate embryos, they alarm many religious groups, particularly those that believe life begins at conception. Such religious objections have dominated headlines on the topic, and were central to President Bush's decision to restrict stem-cell research.

Although they are now politically potent, the present religious objections to regenerative medicine will soon become irrelevant. Scientists are fast developing new ways of culturing the biological materials now exclusively produced by embryos. Given their expressed commitment to the "sanctity of life," religious leaders will soon find the tables turned: researchers will accuse them of causing death if they fail to support medicine that cures the sick without harming embryos.