Thursday, July 20, 2006

Moving the Stem Cell Goal Posts 

Once again, the President has reminded me why I voted for him, summarizing nicely the backward behavior of the minority of Congressmen, and explaining his opposition the stem cell bill:
It makes no sense to say that you're in favor of finding cures for terrible diseases as quickly as possible, and then block a bill that would authorize funding for promising and ethical stem cell research. At a moment when ethical alternatives are becoming available, we cannot lose the opportunity to conduct research that would give hope to those suffering from terrible diseases, and help move our nation beyond the current controversies over embryonic stem cell research.

The most aggravating feature of this debate is how much it has been an argument about the wrong things. To begin with, there's a lot of talk of the "potential medical miracles" that are being quashed by this veto. Give me a break. Those proponents of embryonic stem cell research speak of one set of potential recipients as victims, while opponents rightly point out that the embryos are the victims themselves, not those who are afflicted by a disease that they would have whether or not the bill passed. Stopping that avenue of research doesn't suddenly make leukemia more fatal, or cause scores of citizens to suddenly contract alzheimer's. It will make a lot of human beings suddenly dead; just not the ones who can vote yet.
Perhaps more disappointing, and troublesome in the long-run, is the way in which"stem cell" has become synonymous with "embryonic stem cell." While embryonic stem cell research may hold possibilities, the truth is that the only substantive developments to this point have come from non-embryonic stem cells. In fact,embryonic stem cells have yet to yield a single treatment, therapy or cure. That's right: 0. Not only do adult stem cells hold the same potential as embryonic, as demonstrated by a 2001 study, but they are already being utilized, and have been for some time. Research on grown and/or altered brain cells to treat Parkinson's began in the 80's, and bone marrow cells have been for decades. Proponents of this bill, who pull at the heart strings of grieving relatives and kind-hearted Americans, would have you believe that this research is irrelevant, or non-existent. To do so is to truly overshadow the "medical miracles" all around us.

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