Weigel: "60 Minutes" Part of "Permission Slip Factory" for Embryo Destruction

April 9th, 2006 6:58 AM

Columnist and author George Weigel has a nice article on CBS's 60 Minutes and embryo-destroying stem cell research, which is mostly a list of the tough questions Lesley Stahl could have (but did not) ask the liberal advocate in the segment. He began:

The CBS news magazine 60 Minutes prides itself on asking the hard questions that other television news vehicles are too polite, or perhaps too afraid, to ask. That tough-minded approach to an important issue wasn't much in evidence, however, when 60 Minutes recently took on the question of whether "spare" embryos "left over" from in vitro fertilization procedures should be used for stem-cell research that would result in the embryos' death.

During the segment, Princeton's Robert P. George, a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, tried to explain certain basic moral facts to Leslie Stahl...[But] The editing of the segment strongly suggested that 60 Minutes preferred the approach of the University of Pennsylvania’s Dr. Arthur Caplan, an enthusiast for research that, as he put it, would destroy "embryos...that no one will ever use for any purpose whatsoever." That, of course, is the conventional wisdom in the bioethics guild, which frequently serves as a permission-slip factory for scientists and the biotech industry.

Here's three tough questions Weigel would have for the egg-scramblers, just for a sample:

-- "Dr. Caplan, isn't it true that there isn't a single embryonic stem-cell therapy at even the earliest stage of FDA clinical trials?..."

-- "Dr. Caplan, why is there so little public discussion of the fact that adult stem cell therapies are being used today in treating some sixty-five diseases? Why do you think that private sector biotech firms are pouring their research dollars into adult stem-cell research and therapies? Why does it seem so important to you and your allies among scientists to direct government funds toward embryonic stem-cell research?"

-- "Dr. Caplan, in recent months, two of the world's most prestigious scientific journals, Science and Nature, have published articles by researchers at Harvard and MIT, detailing major advances in obtaining 'pluripotent' stem-cells without killing human embryos; what do you, as an ethicist, make of that?"

Weigel concludes:

Those are some of the really hard questions in the current stem-cell debate. When a 60 Minutes reporter asks them, and compels Art Caplan to answer them, and invites Robby George to comment on the answers, we’ll know that the program’s reputation for forcing the issues is warranted.