The Michael J. Fox/embryonic stem cell-cloning flak has apparently renewed interest in a column I wrote two years ago entitled, “Michael J. Fox is a cannibal.” One person even advised I remove it post haste before Fox sued me for defamation. It’s a little late for that.
On page two is a fun exchange I had with a Megan Papesh, who posed an interesting question and who eventually equated early preborn humans with hair follicles….


From: Megan Papesh
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2006 12:26 PM
To: Jill Stanek
Subject: curiosity

After reading your article in which you heinously call Michael J Fox a cannibal, am I left with one burning question. No, my question does not concern where you get off comparing him to Hitler or to slave owners. Your use of oversimplified sentence structure and grand generalizations already tells me that your opinion should matter as much as perhaps a toddler’s.
My question is what you would think of me in a hypothetical situation. Let me give you a little background, if this helps you (though I doubt it, as you see the world in black and white). I am a 23-year old, educated woman and I have no children, nor do I plan on ever having children. My question is thus: what would you think if I were to tell you that I am willing to become impregnated repeatedly, only to have the zygotes ( not human) harvested for the purposes of stem cell research? If this were an option available to me presently, I can assure you I would take it.
Does this make me a Nazi war criminal, comparable to Josef Mengele? Does this make me a slave trader? Or, perhaps more realistically, does this make me someone concerned with the future of our aging generations?
I would appreciate a response, as the majority of people I know and work with consider this a wonderful idea. It is not often, especially among the educated, that one hears an opinion so close-minded and biased as your own.
_______________
From: Jill Stanek
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2006 2:03 PM
To: Megan Papesh
Subject: Re: curiosity

My answer to your hypothetical question: Your purposeful, repeated killing of your preborn human offspring would make you a serial killer.
_______________
From: Megan Papesh
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2006 2:24 PM
To: Jill Stanek
Subject: Re: curiosity

Hundreds of thousands of people afflicted with diseases that could be prevented/cured through research with stem cells are currently suffering. To compare the sacrifice of several zygotes (nonhuman, bloodless, brainless, soul-less, if you will, cells) to the pain and eventual death of millions of people is not only morally repugnant, it is simply stupid. The people dying from these diseases are friends, family members, and parents.
Comparing a blastocyte that is 1/10 the size of the period at the end of this sentence to their lives is shameful. Does denying them this treatment, then, make me a mass murderer? I think I would rather be a serial killer.
_______________
From: Jill Stanek
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2006 2:28 PM
To: Megan Papesh
Subject: Re: curiosity

So you’re saying level of development and size determine whether one is human or not?
_______________
From: Megan Papesh
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2006 2:43 PM
To: Jill Stanek
Subject: Re: curiosity

This is not a question of whether or not something is or will become a human (as I stated, a zygote is a collection of cells and I do not consider this to be a human regardless of the fact that, if carried to term , it will become a human). I am wondering how you can justify giving so much weight to a collection of cells that have the potential to be born (miscarriages happen) over lives that are currently being lead and slowly, painfully ended?
_______________

From: Jill Stanek
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2006 3:06 PM
To: Megan Papesh
Subject: RE: curiosity

So we’re only human “if carried to term”?
And yes, it is a question of whether or not something is or will become human. That is the entire question: When is a human a human? You indicated in your first email that level of development and size determine humanity. You indicated in your second email that age – only full-term babies – are human. Re: the latter, do those full-term babies have to be delivered to be human? What if a preterm baby is delivered? Does she not become human until her due date? You need to explain your hypothesis to me.
_______________
From: Megan Papesh
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2006 3:32 PM
To: Jill Stanek
Subject: Re: curiosity

Despite the fact that you have done nothing to answer my questions, I will still gladly answer your’s.
A hair follicle is no less human than a zygote. They carry the exact same DNA, the only difference is that one grows into a human and the other does not. A zygote, therefore, does not possess anything uniquely human about it that the hair follicle does not. Would you argue against someone shaving their head? I don’t think so. My personal views on when a collection of cells becomes human is irrelevant to this issue. My argument is simply that the sacrifice of a ball of cells that could potentially possess actual life is worth it when you consider the benefits to those who are currently alive and suffering (and by life, before you ask, I mean consciousness and awareness. To answer your question before you ask again, I also believe that brain-dead patients are incapable of exercising the same rights as humans, such as the right to life, if they have permanently lost their ability to perceive and to be aware of their surroundings).
We can play this game of semantics as long as you wish, as I am sure you would like to because it diverts attention away from the actual issue at hand: in which situation will more lives be saved? I don’t seem to be the serial killer here. You seem to be the one condemning these poor people to death. Are you not ashamed?
_______________
From: Jill Stanek
Sent: Monday, October 30, 2006 3:58 PM
To: Megan Papesh
Subject: RE: curiosity

You defy medicine, science, logic, and religion by equating a zygote identically to a hair follicle. Your personal views on when cells become human are indeed relevant in that you advocate putting to death those zygotes. You also defy science by falsely indicating dissected zygotes will save people from dying. We’re wasting each other’s time here. I’ve answered your original question.

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