Donations Are Voluntary, Not Taken

Posted: December 23rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: "Voluntary", Ethics | No Comments »

Anyone who’s spent a moderate amount of time studying circumcision and the ethical lapses involved understands the vast expanse of those lapses. These are generally thoughtless rather than intentional. Cognitive dissonance has a powerful hold on human beings. Forced genital cutting of healthy children is just one of many absurd, offensive examples.

That said, it’s still disheartening to read stories like this:

… Scientists at a laboratory in Germany have begun growing human skin from the cells of infant foreskins.

According to the German Herald, the “medical breakthrough” is being used to test cosmetics and other consumer products and could someday replace all animal testing. The so-called Skin Factory, at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart, takes foreskin cells donated to the project and uses them to grow the skin, according to spokesman Andreas Traube.

This is not a “medical breakthrough”. The technique involved may be new, but the process of using infant foreskins is not. Skin cells generated from (healthy) infant foreskins have been used in cosmetics and skin grafting for many years.

The ethics of the “donation” are grotesque:

Traube said the foreskin is taken from children aged 1-4, because the younger tissue has better research applications. “The older the skin is, the worse it performs,” he said. …

“It’s logical that we’d want to take the operation to a bigger scale,” Traube said. “In the future, there are all sort of possible applications for the Skin Factory like cancer research, pigmentation diseases, and allergic reactions.”

Scaling up this operation obviously requires more healthy male children circumcised without their consent. But in pursuit of what goal?

The scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute hope the skin they’ve been able to produce will provide a humane alternative to using animals in testing of cosmetics and other products, a German news service, the Deutsche Presse Agentur, reported.

Obligatory disclosure: I’m a vegan. I understand and care about animal welfare issues. However, I do not place the welfare of animals above – or even equal to – the welfare of humans. The choice here is not to injure or not injure an animal. The choice is to injure an animal or to injure a human. The correct ethical choice is simple to understand when contemplated, however briefly. The scientists (and parents) involved should contemplate them. The sooner they’d like to start, the better.

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On a closing note, from the second article:

For their next project, the scientists are working on reproducing the human cornea.

Do the scientists intend to use “donated” infant male corneas?



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