May 29, 2024

Stem Cells

It’s not popular to say that Bush’s veto of the recent bill promoting embryonic stell cell research is for the best.  But I’ll go on record saying it anyway.  Bush said:

“If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers for the first time in our history to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos,” Bush said. “I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line.”

Indeed, there are moral lines that should not be systematically crossed, the deliberate creation and destruction of human life perhaps first among them.

The bill itself states that embryos used for research would not be specifically created for that purpose:

The president and other critics condemn the legislation as morally offensive because it would lead to the destruction of human embryos to derive stem cells.

But backers note the legislation would only permit scientists to use embryos left over from fertility treatments that would otherwise be discarded. They also say it could clear the way for possible medical advances that could help millions of people suffering with debilitating diseases.

But that position is rather transparent.  Given a demand, economics dictates that there will come into existence a supply, whether through leftovers, as the bill suggests, or from deliberate fertilization for research and profit motives. 

Is that wrong?  Personally I do believe it is wrong.  But I do not know.  Can anyone be certain?  In the area of human life and the possible implications of creating and destroying it on a massive scale it seems best to be conservative.

I am all for legitimate scientific research.  But I am not convinced that embryonic stell cell research is even scientifically necessary or ethically desirable.

Consider the recent discovery by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston showing that adult stem cells could produce insulin and potentially cure type 1 diabetes.

Clearly we haven’t even come close to exhausting the possibilities presented by adult and umbilical sources of stem cells.  If anything we’ve barely begun studying the potential applications of adult stem cells and have little idea what advances might be derived from them. 

From the article:

Denner said this research, which reflects a fruitful collaboration with co-authors Drs. Colin McGuckin and Nico Forraz at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne in the United Kingdom, used human umbilical cord blood because it is an especially rich source of fresh adult stem cells and is easily available from donors undergoing Caesarian section deliveries in UTMB hospitals. “However,” he added, “embryonic stem cell research was absolutely necessary to teach us how to do this.”

Note the last.  Cleary American scientists are have been envious of their foreign counterparts who work in countries with less restrictive laws regarding embronic stem cells research.  As Denner states, many scientists believe they need embryonic stem cells to show them the way.

So do many individuals and publications support the research.  Newsweek/MSNBC allowed Patti Davis to run a caustic, rambling anti-Bush, pro-stem cell research diatribe from which this drivel was culled:

But apparently, the destruction of fertilized eggs—flushed away as if they’re useless—doesn’t count as murder. Only using those fertilized eggs for valuable scientific research that could eventually save people’s lives counts as murder in this president’s mind. No one in this administration, with all their wordplay and posturing, has been able to dance around that stunning lack of logic.

We are being asked to believe that this president’s opposition to embryonic stem-cell research has deep moral, religious and ethical roots. As we heard, the word “murder” is tossed around freely.

Yet this is a president who led us into a war with a patchwork quilt of lies. Thousands of American soldiers have died. Thousands more have returned horribly wounded, and we don’t even know yet what toll posttraumatic stress disorder will take on those who obeyed their commander in chief and went to fight in Iraq. We may never know the complete death toll of Iraqi citizens, but we certainly know that some were raped and brutally executed. There have been many beheadings, sometimes of Americans who simply went to Iraq to help the people there, not to fight. Let us please not forget 26-year-old Nick Berg who was beheaded in May 2004. Where is President Bush’s grief over all those deaths? He directs his moral outrage instead to the idea of using fertilized eggs, that would otherwise be destroyed, for potentially life-saving scientific research. He tells us it’s because he cares so deeply about life.

Where was his care in the aftermath of Katrina? This president, when he finally did touch down in Louisiana, made a smirking remark about the good times he used to have in New Orleans. As if alluding to his hard-partying past was appropriate while people were suffering and dying in the Superdome, while bodies were lying bloated in the streets.

Wow.  That’s very inciteful, Patti.  </sarc>

That bit of anti-Bush rabble-rousing may motivate the liberals to take up arms and pitchforks but it does nothing to prove the case for the research itself.

The pro-research position also leaves open the question of whether or not humans should seek to extend their life spans beyond what nature has allotted them.

We all want to live longer, healthier lives.  And we all want our loved ones the do the same.  And it would be great if crippled people like Christopher Reeve could rise and walk again.

But should we – on a global basis – attempt to live 10 or 20 years longer?

There are certain realities in the physical world that say otherwise.  Listening to the environmental lobby makes it clear that a significant number of people believe that the Earth’s environment is breaking down.

Whether that’s proven is another matter.  But the same people who blame industrial progress and growth – the natural condition of living men and women – for ruining the Earth seek to extend our lives well beyond what we have today.  Where is the logic in those contradictory positions?

The truth is that all things die and that humans are and should be no different.  Death is part of humanity’s renewal process.  If the old never leave them how can the young ever truly grow up, take over, and reach their potential?

Overpopulation is a very real problem and one that has been discussed for decades.  Proponents of embryonic stem cell research would produce wondrous cures with the knowledge they expect to gain from their experiments, cures that would only exacerbate this fundamental problem.

It’s unclear how they resolve these and other ethical dilemnas.

As for me, I think I’ve made my position clear.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

View all posts by marc →

One thought on “Stem Cells

  1. While the upside from stem cell research is good…there is an issue of wondering where the creation of human life to harvest medical product would stop. Larry Niven postulated that if science solved the transplant rejection issues that organ legging would become commonplace as the demand for organs outpaced supply. I seem to remember a line about the death penalty for unpaid traffic tickets.

Comments are closed.