Whirled views on stem cell research

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Editorial page editor Ken Neal, in Sunday's Tulsa Whirled, displays both ignorance and disingenuousness on the issue of federal funding for stem cell research. Where to begin with this mess?

It's difficult to understand President Bush's opposition to embryonic stem-cell research.

The president appears to believe that "life" is being destroyed to "save life" if the fertilized human eggs headed for destruction are used for medical research.

Ken, if it's a fertilized human egg, it is life -- a distinct human being that will, unless it's destroyed, grow into a potential Tulsa Whirled subscriber. (You're losing those quickly enough as it is, Ken.)

Much has been made about this president's intelligence. Yet he has demonstrated a very high intelligence, often outthinking and outmaneuvering his opponents. There is nothing stupid about this president.

But he appears to have a mental block on stem-cell research. Or perhaps it is a desire to please the radical right wing, which does seem unable to understand stem-cell facts. The president continually discusses adult stem-cell use, apparently thinking adult stem cells are as therapeutic as embryo cells.

They aren't. They can play a role in fighting disease, but the real potential lies with embryo stem cells. Those stem cells hold
the possibility of curing many problems, including Alzheimer's disease, various spinal cord problems, Parkinson's disease and other maladies for which science might develop cures if given permission and money.

Right, Ken, adult stem cells aren't as therapeutic as embryonic stem cells. They are far more therapeutic. There are actual cures using stem cells from sources that don't require the destruction of human life, but none to date involving embryonic stem cells. Patients with congestive heart failure have been treated with their own stem cells (from bone marrow), resulting in improved heart function. A seven-year-old girl with a severe skull injury was treated with fat-derived stem cells which resulted in new bone formation -- she no longer has to wear a protective helmet. Cord blood stem cells have been used to cure infants who have Krabbe disease, a rare and fatal genetic disorder.

(Hat tip for above links to Joel Helbling, for his handy tabular synopsis of stem cell research from December 2004 through February 2005, based on data from the Stem Cell Research Foundation.)

Back to Ken Neal:

Bush steadfastly opposes "killing life to save life," and if that were an accurate statement he would deserve support in that position.

Yet that statement is tantamount to setting up a straw man to beat on.

No one plans to kill in order to save life.

The president's position is particularly perplexing because he has already approved federal funds for use of embryos fertilized in fertilization clinics before Aug. 9, 2001, provided these embryos were headed for destruction anyway.

This is precisely what science wants: The right to experiment on embryos conceived outside the womb since then. Question: Are embryos conceived before Aug. 9, 2001, any less "life" than those conceived after that date?

To be consistent, the president would have to make that contention.

Here Ken is either sloppy or deliberately deceptive. The date of conception was not an issue in President Bush's directive, which allowed the use of federal funds for research on stem cell lines derived from human embryos prior to the date of his order. That means that the embryos had already been destroyed by that date. Bush's order was intended to remove federal funding as an incentive to destroy any more embryos, regardless of when they had been conceived.

Speaking of straw men, the President isn't challenging science's "right" to experiment on human embryos -- although he should. The issue before the government is federal funding for such inhuman experimentation. Isn't that a chilling way to put it? "Science wants the right to experiment with embryos."

Ken wants freedom for scientists, complete freedom from ethical constraints:

Science is continually advancing in the ways that stem cells taken from embryos, umbilical cord blood and human adults can be used. It is constantly learning. But in order for it to learn, even develop uses for stem cells from other than embryos, it must have the right to experiment without Big Brother looking over scientists' shoulders.

Calling Dr. Mengele! All is forgiven. The Tulsa Whirled is ready to set you up with a new lab and plenty of victims, um, subjects, and without any nosey Big Brothers looking over your shoulder worrying about the sanctity and dignity of human life.

Ken goes on to make a valid point about in vitro fertilization:

All over the country, fertility clinics work daily to help couples conceive. To do that, potential mothers are given fertility drugs resulting in the release of many human eggs. In most cases, there are surplus eggs, most of which are fertilized in a petri dish. Some of these are implanted into prospective mothers, but most are either frozen or discarded.

This is true.

Why not use these embryos for scientific research? Bush and those who support his position never discuss this situation. If one truly believes these fertilized eggs are life, then there would be a hue and cry to find women who would accept them and carry them to full term and develop babies. Some estimates are that there are 400,000 surplus fertilized eggs in these clinics.

There is an organization called Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program devoted to this purpose.

Or, one would expect a demand to ban fertilization in vitro in order to bring a few of the eggs so fertilized to life. Why are Bush and those who support him so quiet about this?

Fertilization clinics routinely "kill" hundreds, perhaps thousands of embryos, which "pro-life" proponents choose to ignore.

Ken's back with another straw man to beat up. In fact, many pro-lifers make exactly this point. You may recall reading about someone who lost her job earlier this year in part because she thought this fact should not be obscured.

Back to Ken, who is now worrying about President Bush's legacy:

Future historians are apt to wonder why this country chose to follow ignorance and fall far behind the rest of the world in developing cures for dreaded diseases. It is as if an earlier president had banned government research into smallpox, leaving the war on that killer disease to other countries because he had misguided moral scruples against such research.

President Bush should quit listening to a small, but noisy, part of his constituency, remember he is no longer running for office and do the right thing on stem-cell research.

Ken Neal apparently believes that the President is as disingenuous as he is. President Bush actually believes in the sanctity of human life, beginning at conception. His moral scruples aren't misguided, and he is doing the right thing on stem-cell research by announcing his plan to veto federal funding for the destruction of human beings in the name of progress.


Warren said:

Sorry, Michael, I think the views you are pushing are as extreme and out of step on this as you were on the Schiavo case. But I encourage you to continue to press your faction's case strongly anyway. The country needs a crystal-clear picture of the extreme and tortured "logic" of the right wing.

(Helpful hint to subsequent posters: use the word "tortured" as the springboard for a "clever" turnaround.)

Sorry Warren, There are a lot of people, including me, who believe, like Michael, that life begins at conception. We are not extreme, as much as you would like to think we are. Luckily we have a US congressman that believes as we do. "I remain strongly opposed to the destruction of human embryos...," John Sullivan.

W. said:

If President Bush had really believed the sanctity of life, the administration wouldn't have instructed his intelligence officers to slant reports on Iraq and start a war on false pretenses that so far has cost 1,600 American lives and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives.

Pope John Paul II certainly had more moral consistency than the president does, as he opposed both abortion and the war. If this proves nothing else, it is that Bush is a hypocrite.

luke said:

W, though I agree with your assessment, that's a pretty lousy guerilla tactic there. by going completely off the subject at hand, you can avoid presenting your own position, which you then might have to defend.

Mr. Bates, the easiest point to make is this:

your "convservative" slant should, if conservatism still meant anything, have you argue that federal funding should not be used on stem cell research merely because it is another government welfare program. specifically, it's government-subsidized R&D that will primarily benefit big medical companies at the expense of American taxpayers. then, the companies will turn around and charge those same taxpayers a premium on goods that were produced at the cost of said taxpayers.

this is a much easier way to argue against stem-cell research than, say, proving when life begins. but like I said, only if conservatism meant anything, which it doesn't.

Warren said:

If you tell me you have adopted as many embryos as your budget will allow, I will believe you are sincere in equating embryos with actual human beings.

Since very, very few people have done so, this tells me that few really believe in this equivalance. It's a talking point only. Considering how many children already lack homes, it's a tragic farce.

Your "culture of life" will sentence many undeniable human beings to death and disease by tying the hands of science in this way. Check with Nancy Reagan, and see what she thinks about it.

Mike said:

I don't suppose it makes much difference to you liberals that stem cells from cord blood or adults have so far proven much more viable in trials than have embryonic stem cells. With you folks, it always seems to be more about the money than anything else. Just look at the financial statements of Planned Parenthood. Got to keep those abortion mills churning, right boys?

Warren said:

Mike, I\'m not sure how you decided \"you liberals\" are interested in either money or \"keep(ing) those abortion mills churning.\" That has nothing to do with my thoughts on the matter.

Perhaps you mistook my suggestion for those who say they believe an embryo is a human being to adopt as many embryos as they could afford as somehow money-related.

The point is, if you really believe that an 2, 4 or 8 cell embryo is a human being, your actions should reflect that belief.

Warren said:

Extending that thought, shouldn't anyone who allows an embryo defrost be tried for murder?

Let's say there is a fire and you can only save a 1 year old child or a test tube with 1000 frozen embryos. Which would you choose?

If you are sincere in your logic that an embryo is exactly equivalent to a human being, it's a no-brainer: take the test tube.

I doubt that you or anyone else would really do so unless you are so eaten up with ideology that you have lost your mind (or at least your common sense)

Rayilyn Brown said:

I have Parkinson's disease, am a real live human being who doesn't believe blastocysts are people.
It is horrible to listen to these arguments as I slowly die. No thinking person should oppose all stem cell research. You people who tout the superiority of adult stem cells over embryonic or nuclear transfer don't know what you are talking about. Maybe if you got a horrible disease at least your ignorance would be cured.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 30, 2005 11:52 PM.

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