Shiite law and stem cell advances in Iran

October 17, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More

While many Americans continue to try to halt embryonic stem cell research, Iranian scientists are forging ahead with this cell research with the aim of curing people suffering from real life medical conditions, especially military veterans who have suffered disabling spinal cord injuries.  That is the issue brought front and center by this episode of Frontline. In the Shiite view, the soul enters the embryo only once it is viable–only after viability is can the organism growing in utero be considered a “human being.”

In the U.S., many of us continue to treat stem cells as though they are harvested from organisms that are fully human, even though these embryos lack the biological equipment necessary for any semblance of sentience. As best I can understand the dispute, many of those in the U.S. who oppose embryonic stem cell research consider an embryo to be fully human even though it has merely the potential to someday become a thinking human being. They focus on the potential rather than sentience–on what will someday be rather than what is.

The Iranians, in focusing on viability, illustrate that two versions of religious practices (conservative Muslims and conservative Christians) that both believe in supernatural “souls” and are both conservative look at the exact same thing (embryos) and come to opposite conclusions.

I don’t believe in supernatural entities such as souls or gods.  I do believe that it is best to recognize that human beings are (exquisite) animals, that we are naturally equipped with empathy (including an inclination to take care of sentient humans who have become paralyzed), and that we are fully justified to destroy non-sentient embryos to save sentient adults such as the paralyzed man featured in the Frontline episode.


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Category: Human animals, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Nima Moghaddam says:

    This is so strange, American scientist at California have a lot of permission to work on Embryonic stem cells, other scientist in US, in UK, in Germany have permission to work on cell lines before 2005

    Iran after 2007, do not have any new cell lines from Embryonic stem cells (ESC), Iran do not have any clinical trial with ESC but US at Geron company under FDA supervision have,

    Iran work on Adult stem cells even in Spinal cord injury, if Author do not know, I have to mention that we culture Shwan cell for this patient, and you know it comes from adult stem cells,

    Now Iran have technology for iPS and so we do not need to induce any ESC so like other countries we have this permission to work on stem cell.

    I have a question, Who have Atomic bomb, WHO use this bomb for people killing, WHO used Uranium for Iragi people, so why you afraid from Iran????????

    Be justify please

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