Tags: Stem | Cell | Bigots

Stem Cell Bigots

Tuesday, 26 September 2006 12:00 AM

This summer, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have authorized additional federal government spending for embryonic stem cell research. He said, "This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others.

"It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect, so I vetoed it."

Given the need to protect human rights, we find this veto appropriate, mostly because it's ethical, but also because it's good science.

Like the president, we support using adult stem cells to develop medical treatments. But we oppose the destruction of embryonic human beings in experiments.

Human adult stem cell treatments are already being used to alleviate human suffering from over 90 different ailments. These medical interventions have already cured thousands of people.

But, so far, human embryonic stem cells have not cured a single human medical condition. That's as in none, nada, zero; not experimentally, or in controlled clinical trials, or in general medical use.

The word bigot comes to mind. And it's a pretty strong word.

But we think it appropriately describes some people who promote embryonic stem cell research. They are loudly intolerant of other beliefs and add injury to insult by extracting our tax money to support their activities.

Time for a recap on the current state of knowledge about stem cells.

Unlike differentiated cells in our bodies, such as muscle, bone, or blood cells, stem cells can turn into several different kinds of cells. For example, stem cells inside the bone marrow divide and release millions of white and red blood cells into the blood stream every second.

Then, although often glossed over, there are several varieties of "stem cells." Your body's own "adult" stem cells often quickly fill in the gaps when more cells of a certain type are needed, such as more skin cells.

"Embryonic" or "pluripotent" stem cells are taken from very young human embryos, less than one week old. These cells are considered prime targets for research because they can become specialized and differentiate into all the other types of cell in the body, such as brain, blood, and gut cells.

One of the problems is that taking embryonic stem cells from human embryos kills the nascent human being.

This is just plain language, biology and common sense, not philosophy, ideology, or religion. Men's and women's bodies make living spermatozoa and egg cells respectively. Alone, these cells die after a few days. But when united in appropriate circumstances, sperm and egg cells merge and a new and a unique human being begins life.

Human life is continuous, and not biologically divided into a "non-human" period of time that later results in a human. It's human life all the way through.

Yet some research scientists, such as Dr. Gabriela Cezar of the University of Wisconsin at Madison do "not believe a fertilized egg is a human being" according to a Jan. 24 article by Brian Clark, editor of WisBusiness.com. In the article, she isn't quoted about what she "believes" a fertilized human egg is or what it should be called.

If we want to discuss legalities or debate ideologies, we could appropriately ask, "When should killing and experimentation on human beings be allowed?" But because the question is distasteful when accurately stated, Dr. Cezar and others try to twist words around and pretend that these human embryos are somehow not human.

Yet every person reading this article was once an embryo.

All this hoopla hasn't resulted in any cures, just a lot of dead embryos. In contrast, adult stem cells can be collected from many human tissues with the consent of — and without killing — the donor. The medical cures are remarkable.

In spite of the great scientific and medical advances in non-embryonic stem cell research and treatment, stem cell bigots lambaste those who dare to question their particular orthodoxy as (Heaven forbid) Neanderthal, knuckle-dragging, fanatical, right-wing, fundamentalist right-to-lifers.

Name calling is a major tool in the bigots' armory.

They are extremely intolerant of anyone who dares to suggest that human embryonic stem cells are people in the earliest stages of their lives.

How else does this bigotry show up?

Very often; it's an unstated or simply implicit tool in a "here's a stick in your eye" attitude about other people's concerns, such as manifest in a 2004 California ballot initiative, Proposition 71.

This would require the state of California to spend $3 billion on embryonic stem cell research through a new stem-cell research agency, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The sponsors of this initiative apparently feel that their personal feelings and goals are so inherently worthy that they are even willing to lie about the science.

The proposition implies that the stem cell research that has the greatest potential for therapies and cures would best be "specifically focused on pluripotent stem cell" research. This leaves the impression that pluripotent or embryonic stem cells have already shown more significant results than adult stem cells.

As noted above, the opposite is true.

Ironically, some embryonic stem cell research proponents worry about being limited by other people's narrow opinions. Yet they don't seem to be worried about taking tax money to spend on their own narrow opinions.

How we think about what it means to be human gets pretty close to the heart of the matter. When some human life is thought to be disposable for the benefit other human life, we're not far from human puppy farms.


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This summer, President Bush vetoed a bill that would have authorized additional federal government spending for embryonic stem cell research. He said, "This bill would support the taking of innocent human life in the hope of finding medical benefits for others. "It...
Tuesday, 26 September 2006 12:00 AM
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