Saturday Mailbox


August 21, 2004

Research goals cannot justify harming fetus

It is nearly impossible in a world in which the Ten Commandments are reduced not to the Ten Guidelines or the Ten Suggestions but to the Ten Laughingstocks to defend the old moral principle that the end does not justify the means -- that is, that something cannot be good merely because it has a good purpose, but rather must itself be good.

This is why it is so difficult to make a convincing argument against fetal stem cell research. Few people, least of all Cynthia Tucker ("Current policy on stem cells has no good defense," Opinion Commentary, Aug. 16), can understand why tiny, not-even-formed embryos should not be available for the taking if they hold the promise of curing whatever human ailment one fantasizes they will help, and never mind that their use to date has been far less promising, and far more disappointing, than the use of adult stem cells).

The key is Ms. Tucker's use of terms such as "unfeeling, unseeing" to characterize these tiny beings. But choosing to make human embryos our unwitting human donors when they cannot know or feel what is happening to them is a decision that can lead to terrible consequences.

There have been accusations that adult organ donors may not have been quite as dead as truly dead. But for those physicians and families eager for nice, fresh organs, what does it truly matter since the person is practically dead and will never know anyway?

And for the Terri Schiavos of this world, what does it matter if she is not fed or sustained by fluids? She doesn't really know what's happening to her anyway.

Those who argue against fetal stem cell research, however, believe that medical research must never use any person as a means to another person's good if it means harm to that person -- however tiny, unknowing or unfeeling that person may be -- to which he or she did not agree.

Patricia Keimig


Blocking research and winking at war?

Thanks for Cynthia Tucker's column "Current policy on stem cells has no good defense" (Opinion Commentary, Aug. 16).

One has to wonder why so many people in this administration and their supporters object, on moral grounds, to stem cell research, which has the possibility of curing so many deadly diseases, and yet do not seem to see any immorality in our being led into a disastrous war on false pretexts in which thousands of people (Americans and Iraqis) have lost their lives and continue to die every day.

Where is the logic in this kind of thinking?

Velva Grebe


Dangers of mercury are well documented

Thank you for The Sun's coverage of the hazards of mercury contamination of fish ("Md. fish exceed safe levels of mercury, group reports," Aug. 4). It was sad to see an industry-funded think tank challenge the accuracy of the facts in the article ("EPA hasn't defined limits on mercury," letters, Aug. 14).

Anybody wondering about the validity of estimates of how bad this problem has become should read the work of the scientists themselves.

Environmental Protection Agency scientists recently published findings in Environmental Health Perspectives, a prestigious, peer-reviewed journal, which estimate that approximately one in six women of childbearing age have mercury in their blood at levels high enough to do permanent damage to their children. The EPA's Web site contains the same findings.

This is serious. This is shocking. We should respond with utmost urgency.

To question the accuracy of news accounts reporting such information is irresponsible and shows a hostility toward the health of many people.

Brad Heavner


The writer is director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

Take steps to stop carnage on our roads

A headline in the Aug. 11 Sun read "Road deaths decline after five-year rise." In the article, which noted that road accidents caused 42,643 deaths nationwide in 2003, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials called America's roads and highways "safer than ever."

To put this in perspective: In September 2001, 3,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks. In October, November, December of that year and every month in the following year and the year after that and in every month in the present year, more people were killed on our highways than in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

You're just as dead if you're killed in an SUV rollover, are hit by a drunken driver or fail to use your seat belt as if you had died in the World Trade Center or Pentagon.

England, Germany, France, Canada, Norway, Sweden and other developed countries all have lower death rates per capita from motor vehicle fatalities than the United States.

We invest untold amounts of money and human resources in trying to prevent a repeat of the 9/11 attacks, but incredibly little in preventing motor vehicle deaths

Partial solutions to the death toll on our roads are as disparate as greater use of mass transportation, safer cars, safer highways and better law enforcement.

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