What do you mean by ?embryo??

?It?s how we describe the thing that almost makes more of a difference than what it is.? These words, from linkurl:Patricia Alt;http://wwwnew.towson.edu/healthscience/alt.html of Towson University in Maryland, are particularly applicable to hot button issues in bioethics, particularly the ever-raging debate over using embryos for stem cell research. At linkurl:this week?s;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/23946/ conference on linkurl:Bioethics & Politics,;http://politics.bioethics.net/

Alison McCook
Jul 15, 2006
?It?s how we describe the thing that almost makes more of a difference than what it is.? These words, from linkurl:Patricia Alt;http://wwwnew.towson.edu/healthscience/alt.html of Towson University in Maryland, are particularly applicable to hot button issues in bioethics, particularly the ever-raging debate over using embryos for stem cell research. At linkurl:this week?s;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/23946/ conference on linkurl:Bioethics & Politics,;http://politics.bioethics.net/ hosted by the Albany Medical College, Alt presented a situation when language made all the difference to opinions about stem cell research. In 2005, Maryland legislators became frustrated after repeated attempts to pass a bill protecting stem cell research in both the House and the Senate. And for a state that?s home to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, protecting this research is important. So they tweaked the language -- most notably, bill-writers changed the words ?human embryo? to ?certain material? or ?unused material,? then linked to information stating that healthcare practitioners will explain all the...
du/healthscience/alt.html of Towson University in Maryland, are particularly applicable to hot button issues in bioethics, particularly the ever-raging debate over using embryos for stem cell research. At linkurl:this week?s;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/23946/ conference on linkurl:Bioethics & Politics,;http://politics.bioethics.net/ hosted by the Albany Medical College, Alt presented a situation when language made all the difference to opinions about stem cell research. In 2005, Maryland legislators became frustrated after repeated attempts to pass a bill protecting stem cell research in both the House and the Senate. And for a state that?s home to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, protecting this research is important. So they tweaked the language -- most notably, bill-writers changed the words ?human embryo? to ?certain material? or ?unused material,? then linked to information stating that healthcare practitioners will explain all the options to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization, including donating the embryos to other infertile couples or ?embryo adoption purposes? (something even Alt herself was unable to interpret). Along the way, bill-writers also deleted any reference to somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). After changing the language, the bill was passed by both the House and Senate, and signed by the Governor. This experience showed Alt that language matters a great deal when talking about embryonic stem cell research (?unused material? sounds much more innocuous than ?human embryos?). As a word of advice, she suggested that scientists and other supporters of the research choose their language carefully, and try to be less specific whenever possible. But there are times, too, when language isn?t specific enough -- for instance, she said, many non-scientists may not realize that adult stem cells doesn?t mean cells taken from someone over 21. This suggestion earned a few giggles from the crowd, but I?m sure Alt is right. When trying to explain or convince, scientists need to watch their ?specificity? -- sometimes toning it down, sometimes doing the opposite.

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