While at a cocktail party for his wife’s accounting firm, Nathan is introduced to two of his wife’s colleagues. He begins talking with them and mentions that he is a genetic engineer who works with stem cells. Colleague A immediately tells Nathan that he does not support stem cell research because it involves the use of human embryos. Colleague B disagrees, telling Nathan he fully supports this research because of all the therapies that have been developed from embryonic stem cells.
Nathan is unsure of what to do, as both Colleague A and B have expressed opinions that are not true. Contrary to Colleague A’s beliefs, not all stem cell research involves the use of human embryonic stem cells; it can also be conducted on adult stem cells. Additionally, Colleague B is misinformed - currently there are no FDA-approved treatments that involve the use of human embryonic stem cells.
What is Nathan’s responsibility on educating the general public about stem cells? Nathan does not want to get into a long argument at a party, but also feels like he should not let the colleagues continue to believe this misinformation.
Clare Bartlett was a 2014-2015 Hackworth Fellow in Engineering Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.