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Stephanie R
05-31-2005, 08:45 AM
I'm looking for some insight and feedback regarding bioethics relating to the stem-cell debate. More specifically, is the mainstream reader audience interested in reading fiction where the plot revolves around the use of stem cells and stem cell research? I know the topic is a hot one in political and religious circles. Anyone know what the climate is like for mainstream readers? Is it possibly a taboo subject that would be better put on the back burner until the ethical issues have been fully addressed?

Thanks!

Steph

MadScientistMatt
06-01-2005, 06:33 PM
I'm not much of a bioethics expert. But I would like to make one reminder: There are several sorts of stem cells and stem cell research. Some stem cells are taken from adults, which can be a little painful but there is no ethical controversy over this. Same goes for removing stem cells from an umbillical cord following birth. Then there are embryonic stem cells taken from an embryo (sorry, I may be misspelling things here...) usually grown from in vitro fertilization. And there are fetal stem cells gathered from abortions. The last two are, of course, the controversial ones. Some studies have managed to take controversy even further, like the recent South Korean study that combined cloning and embryonic stem cell research into one experiment.

The hardest thing in writing such a novel would be staying neutral. Right now, the ethical issues are still controversial and the possible benefits to stem cell research are speculative and unproven. So any book is likely to have to take sides. Would the research uncover a miracle cure that is being held back by its opponents? Or would it turn out to be an empty promise and a moral can of worms that won't go back into the can once the research shows it to be ineffective? It's hard for a book like that without speculating about the consequences, and in speculating about the consequences, it is virtually impossible to avoid taking sides.

People you have not sided with are likely to reject your book as propeganda.

veinglory
06-01-2005, 06:57 PM
I think it would be an interesting angle to a plot so long as it was reasonably accurate and plausible not the usual cloning Hitler nonsense.

Stephanie R
06-01-2005, 07:52 PM
Thank you for the feedback! I am in biomedical research, so the technical side of it probably won't be a problem. I agree that adult stem cell research is a viable option that many dismiss because they hear the words "stem cells" and immediately assume it is unethical.

I am concerned that people won't get past the stem cell stigma and will dismiss the book as being Hitler-ish or as thinly veiled pro-research propaganda. My novel portrays a character who has benefited from stem cell developments, and it is treated as no big deal. While it is not intended to be political, because I am sort of a scientist geek enveloped by a geek environment, it is often hard for me to gage mainstream reactions.

I want to use the stem cell information because I think it is "cool"; however I don't know if I can include it without sounding like I am trying to make a political statement. Here's the next question beyond what mainstream audiences will read: What is the climate like with publishers for novels that include stem cell technologies? Has it been done to death? Too much in the media? Thanks again.

Steph