Anyone who knows how the bioethics game is played will not be surprised at the latest news on the stem cell front. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and bioethicists write "consensus statements."

Of course, the most congenial place to do it is Brave New Britain, where a few refugees from the United States and other oppressive regimes have found freedom to pursue their destructive research on human embryos unhindered—and generously funded.

But despite some startling assertions in the press that the brains are fast draining out of America, the trend seems to continue to be for the world's best scientists to want to come and work here. And we know that money is certainly not draining elsewhere. Since embryonic stem cell research is costly, there is yet to emerge any convincing evidence (convincing, that is, to a bunch of venture capitalists) that it will make any money.

The latest "consensus statement" naturally isn't a consensus statement at all. The phrase implies a statement of common ground between parties who disagree. But those who disagreed were not invited! You had to be in the consensus to get into the meeting. So its stunning achievement is to forge consensus where the parties were already agreed.

In fact, it is a manifesto—by and for embryonic stem cell enthusiasts. It breathes the heady air of California's Proposition 71. The "consensus" that binds the group together seems to be on one main point: They disagree with the policy of the United States government, a policy that few commentators seem to be aware is not some whim of President Bush but the law of the land.

One of the oddities of the statement is that the meeting's sponsors include the British Embassy in Washington. What is the British ...

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Life Matters
Nigel M. de S. Cameron is now president and CEO of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. His "Life Matters" column, a commentary on bioethics issues, ran from 2005 to 2006.
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