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Ethics of the Prophets (standard:science fiction, 1259 words)
Author: EutychusAdded: Nov 06 2002Views/Reads: 1857/1011Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
What happens when stem cell research reaches it's logical end. Somebody needs to think these things through!
 



“Do you remember what you said back then, Ben?” my long time associate
Julian asked me as I admired the small plaque that had been given to me 
earlier in the day at a small ceremony honoring the 100th anniversary 
of the legalization of cloning. 

“ ‘The results could be staggering. The potential for mankind is just
too great to allow politics, soft money or religious zealots to stand 
in our way.'”  It would have been hard for me to forget the quote. It 
had been the subject of some needlepoint my wife had done years ago and 
still hung proudly behind the desk in my office. Over the years, the 
way I had worded things in that address before Congress troubled me, 
but when placed beside all that had happened in the years since, the 
angst those words caused me was moot. 

“And they were indeed staggering. You're on what, your third heart?” 

I nodded and said, “Now don't forget that there were plenty of problems
to work out, but given time and a little enlightened thought, work them 
out we did.” 

The initial problem to overcome had been the funding issue. We had
pressed for federal funding at the start because we didn't expect 
private industry to jump right into the ethical maelstrom of cloning. 
But five years after the initial seed money was spent and it became 
obvious what the technology would be able to achieve, strange 
bedfellows were seen with increasing regularity. The big tobacco 
companies worked into the settlement of one of the final federal 
lawsuits the provision to help fund the cloning of lungs for those 
affected by use of their products. 

Admittedly, it seemed right and even noble for RJR and its kin to fund
such research, but in some corners we heard cynical voices accusing the 
tobacco barons of simply preserving their market. “Of course they're 
funding cloning research. If a person can just grow a new lung, then 
they need not fear disease and can perpetuate an irresponsible habit to 
the eternal joy of stockholders.” 

Then there was the problem of misunderstanding our motives. The function
of the cloning bill had never been to allow for the cloning of complete 
copies of people, but rather to set up a guideline for growing a spare 
organ should the need arise or to jump start the pancreas of a child 
with juvenile diabetes. The opposition from the moral high ground had 
been severe and well organized. I really couldn't fault their 
arguments, but while I could appreciate what they said, I was also 
capable of taking the long view. I could see where things had the 
potential for going whereas they either couldn't see or simply refused 
to see. 

But compromise wins out every time. We came up with a way to market the
concept that basically took the average of what people wanted to see 
done with the technology. No one wanted to see a complete person grown 
for parts and only the vocal few wanted to ban cloning outright, so we 
took the mean between the two and the end results made everyone happy. 
The mean justifies the ends. 

Julian chuckled. “The successes were phenomenal in the early years. We
grew close to a million kidneys that first year of full-scale 
production. Hearts were double that. Rheumatoid arthritis treatments 
brought in a billion five in the first two years.” 

“You know, it's best to think in terms of the amount of pain relieved,
not in terms of dollars and cents,” I said with a wink. 

“Right. Just like choosing to ignore the way the planet went from seven
billion people to eight billion in three years time. I know there were 
accusations aimed at our replacement technology as a chief instigator 
in the rapid population rise, what with fewer people dying and all, but 
things always seem to have a way of working themselves out.” 

“Yes, the government always steps in when necessary. They raised speed
limits, repealed the laws requiring air bags and the like, and imposed 
the death penalty for jaywalking. Interesting the way the death penalty 
opponents kind of disappeared. If the technology is working for you, 
then it becomes easy to turn a deaf ear to people who are sacrificed to 
keep the technology viable. And when automakers couldn't build engines 


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