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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Desiring acceptance doesn't mean opposing a cure

For a class on science and public policy, I’m reading about how some Germans oppose stem cell research and other genetic therapies because of the intrinsic dignity of human life. Some even go so far as to say that it’s better to support persons with disability with stronger social programs and tolerance than through stem cell research.

I’m sorry, but I think that given the choice, most “people with disabilities” would be delighted to give up that moniker and just become “people.” Now, there are many compelling moral arguments for restricting stem cell research (although none I agree with), but I cringe at the idea that being born with a disability means you should refuse a cure if it’s available.

Think of it this way. It’s been a great social accomplishment that people with physical or mental disabilities have come to be understood as people who are different instead of evil or cursed by God, as many were even a hundred years ago. The recognition that their disability comes from genetic mutation or illness means we should make as much effort toward curing them as we do for curing cancer or preventing smallpox. Does such research negate the value of greater social acceptance of people with disabilities? Absolutely not. But it shouldn’t be precluded by it either.

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