Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Mike and I have a conversation going in the comments about embryonic stem cell research. He is being a complete gentleman and I only bring the conversation up here because his points are those which I see time and again in discussions. This is by no means a complete response to those points because I truly am inadequate to that task. However, by putting a few resources I have come across in the past I hope it will help to show another side to the argument.

One point that is mentioned is that scientists assure us the most promising advances in stem cell therapy will result from research with embryonic stem cells. There are really two issues here. One is that we still are talking about human life when we discuss embryonic stem cells; life that must be sacrificed in order to make medicine. The other issue is that one must trust those scientists' promises. With that in mind, I repost this information from a while back.
Clay Randall at Mental Pompeii has a fabulous post about embryonic stem cell research. As a doctor on his hospital's Ethics Committee he has the opportunity to live his convictions.
Note how NIH tries to minimize the fact that you're taking stem cells from an unborn person while at the same time trying to make the artificial distinction between fertilization occuring through sexual intercourse and fertilization occurring in the lab which is...well.....artificial. Perhaps they're hoping the the terms "trophoblast", "blastocoel", and "blastocyst" will disguise the fact that we're talking about a human being? While there is indeed "potential" in these embryonic stem cells, there is also potential in adult stem cells (umbilical cord, bone marrow, etc) which do not carry with it the same ethical considerations. Is it coincidence that rarely does the media discuss the problem of stem cell rejection by the immune system or the malignancies that can result?
Here are a wonderful article that Randall linked to which point out what I had read elsewhere but couldn't find lately ... adult stem cells are getting good results in research while embryonic stem cells have major problems, like a tendency to cause cancerous tumors. I have to echo Randall's questions on this. Why don't we ever hear this from major media?

  • The Wrong Tree: Embryonic stem cells are not all that by Wesley J. Smith
  • A more succinct discussion comes from Catholic and Enjoying It.
    Basically, there are two sources of stem cells: embryos and Other (such as cord blood). To get stem cells from embryos you must kill the embryo. It's a form of cannibalism. I don't oppose stem cell research. I oppose *embryonic* stem cell research. The real reason ESCR is vaunted is not because of it miraculous healing powers (there is yet to have been a single cure for anything) but because there's big money to be made in an industry where embryos are manufactured and then cannibalized for medical use.
    The only advances that have not come unstuck through side effects that in turn are debilitating seem to be those from adult or umbilical cord stem cells ... that I have read of anyway. In fact, just today The Curt Jester draws our attention to a case where umbilical cord stem cells will be helping mightily, without loss of life or limb to anyone.

    Mike brings up the possibility that a loved one or I might get Alzheimer's and that is rightly a concern in our family where both a great-grandmother and a grandmother died after suffering a long bout with that illness. Naturally it was quite distressing to everyone involved. So I have faced that for some time as a possibility for my future.

    However the embryonic stem cells are obtained, it means the destruction of a human life. I can't imagine choosing my comfort whether mental or physical over the life of another human being.

    The Anchoress echoes my own attitude toward any medical treatments that I might ever have cause to use.

    I’m sure I’ll hear, “Anchoress, you’re so mean! What about if someone can be cured of diabetes thanks to Embryonic research?” Really? Is it worth it? As I wrote here, we’ve lost touch with the idea that maybe we’re supposed to play a hand we’re dealt and grow from it. We don’t want to know, anymore, from suffering. Which means we don’t want reality in our lives. I think John Paul II was zreally trying to teach that to us, in his later years. Contrary to the collective wisdom, there is power in, and value to, suffering. It actually may be more important to “be” than to “do.”

    And I say that as a woman dealing with a chronic blood illness, and waiting to hear - finally - about a diagnosis that has taken a great deal of time to pinpoint. Both health issues are being looked into with ADULT stem cells, and that’s good news…I wouldn’t want any treatment derived from EMBRYONIC stem cells.

    Given the choice, I’ll take the harder road, and keep faith with the Creator. If you think I’m a fool, then so be it, I’ll be a fool. I won’t live my life at the expense of a life not allowed to live. Maybe - as this 16 year old has figured out, the time I get is all the time I’m supposed to have.

    I tend to want as little government involvement as possible in funding such things because I think that tends to make quite a few scientists jump on the funding bandwagon and forget their objectivity in order to get the bucks. I think of the global warming debate and how I have learned to distrust scientists precisely because they are going for the funds before the objectivity.

    Yes, much has come from government programs such as NASA. However, many of those results that we now enjoy in regular life (from such mundane items as Velcro on up to medicines) were not the point of the funding. The funding was to promote space exploration, going to the moon and various other astronaut-ly activities. The benefits to us much of the time were an application in a new area of things developed for other uses. I'm as happy as anyone to benefit from them. However, there is a world of difference between trying to explore space and destroying babies (a.k.a. embryos) for experimentation in medicine.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment