Wednesday, February 03, 2010

My outrage filter is broken.

I really don't see the harm in doctors using tissue samples that would have otherwise been thrown away for research purposes. Nobody's violating your bodily integrity by doing so. It's not part of your body anymore. The fact that people don't grasp this is what's messed up:
"Deborah [Henrietta's daughter] never knew her mother.... She had always wanted to know who her mother was but no one ever talked about Henrietta. So when Deborah found out that this part of her mother was still alive she became desperate to understand what that meant: Did it hurt her mother when scientists injected her cells with viruses and toxins? Had scientists cloned her mother? And could those cells help scientists tell her about her mother, like what her favorite color was and if she liked to dance."
The only thing I am outraged about is that this woman's family got such a poor science education. And that has nothing to do with the general ethical status of requiring informed consent for research on tissue samples that would otherwise have been discarded.

The comparisons to giving unconscious women pelvic exams and implanting undisclosed experimental devices in patients are completely off base. And the question of patenting cell lines differs from the question of whether one should be allowed to profit off another person's cells, when those cells were valueless trash in their raw state.
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