The saying goes, the bigger the man, the harder the fall. But it seems that Dr. Hwang, with the help of his loyal government and citizenry, may be in for a public relations extreme make-over. How quickly his fall was met with first, shame and disgrace, then explanations to justify his behavior and now it seems he may be resurrected back into full standing as the cloning pioneer. Here’s the timeline:
November 1st The World Stem Cell Hub is announced in Seoul Korea, headed up by Dr. Hwang. Upon the announcement of its opening, the website for online applications for cloning requests come in at such high volume the server is shut down.
November 12th Dr. Gerald Shatten of the University of Pittsburgh disengages from his collaborative relationship with Hwang and the Stem Cell Hub, stating alleged breaches in ethical conduct.
November 23rd Dr. Hwang publicly announces his resignation from the project stating he was so involved in the scientific developments that he neglected his attention to the ethical details. Seems there was a small problem with buying eggs from female graduate students.
November 24th Health Ministry official Choi Hee-Joo said, “The scientists donated their eggs “voluntarily for the success of the research by sacrificing themselves,” . He also said the donations were made according to values consistent with Eastern culture, and shouldn’t be looked at from the standpoint of Western culture.
November 29th South Koreans rush to save Hwang from the public criticism while 33 young high school girls sign up to serve as egg donors in order for his important research to move forward.
I have never witnessed such a fast public relations blitz. Interesting, in Hwang’s defense to be restored to hero is the statement that we can’t judge him by our western cultural ethics. As one put it, and this from a part of the world that has no problem putting a clean bullet through the head of prisoners so they can harvest their organs! And secondly, in the spirit of good citizenship, is the fact that young high school girls are lining up to have their eggs extracted! And also in a country with a long history of abuses toward women!
Westerners, get over your Puritanic selves!
- Jennifer Lahl, MA, BSN, RN, is founder and president of The Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Lahl couples her 25 years of experience as a pediatric critical care nurse, a hospital administrator, and a senior-level nursing manager with a deep passion to speak for those who have no voice. Lahl’s writings have appeared in various publications including Cambridge University Press, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, and the American Journal of Bioethics. As a field expert, she is routinely interviewed on radio and television including ABC, CBS, PBS, and NPR. She is also called upon to speak alongside lawmakers and members of the scientific community, even being invited to speak to members of the European Parliament in Brussels to address issues of egg trafficking; she has three times addressed the United Nations during the Commission on the Status of Women on egg and womb trafficking.