Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stem cell research: I'm sorry, is that debate still going?

This is downright ridiculous.

After eight years of an administration that believed an embryo was a fully-grown human being, and that god told us to go to war and kill innocent civilians, sanity finally returned to the White House. But apparently insanity has a way of coming back in the form of irrational people fighting the same battles over and over again.

The LA Times reported last week that conservatives who oppose embryonic stem cell research are going to battle against Obama's executive order by spreading the word about their views, and educating more people about the less controversial research methods that are available.

And it’s already happening. Georgia’s senate passed a bill last Thursday that would prohibit the creation of embryonic stem cell lines.

The legislation “defines an embryo as a person, thus prohibiting its use in scientific research and making it illegal for researchers to create new ones. Violators could lose their medical license and be fined up to $1,000 for each offense. The legislation seeks to control the use of embryonic stem cells and moves the debate into the antiabortion arena.”

Other conservatives want to push the idea for alternative methods that are less controversial – and that means, the creation of pluripotent stem cells from adult tissue without the use of embryos. Previous studies have shown this to be possible, but the technique is too dangerous to use in human beings since it involves modifying cells with the help of viruses, which may endanger a person’s life. Recent studies have reported that there may be a way to modify adult stem cells without the use of viruses, but clearly, this research is in its infancy, and will need decades to find its way into therapeutics, if at all.

What makes this outcry against stem cell research even more ridiculous is that all or most of these same people who oppose stem cell research to save actual human lives are OK with legislation for reproductive purposes. So, they would sooner destroy an embryo to create a new life than to save an existing one.

As bioethics expert, Paul Wolpe, rightfully points out, when you define an embryo as a human being neither should be allowed. "It is a problematic strategy because when you define an embryo as a person, what they say is: Therefore you cannot destroy them. My response is: Therefore you cannot freeze them. How can you freeze a person and keep them suspended in animation?"

It’s pretty obvious that these people are holding on to this argument simply for political purposes – or close-minded idiocy, which is worse.

I found particularly interesting this article by an elderly Ohio woman who came around to stem cell research owing, in part, to what science could do in terms of her cancer therapies, and what it could not – and as yet, cannot – do for her mother’s struggles with Parkinson’s. Perhaps, if we hadn't wasted the last eight years playing political games with people's lives....

Like this woman in Canton, a majority of Americans certainly believe in the potential benefits of stem cell research.

What will it take these right wing nut jobs to let go of that cryopreserved embryo, which will never see the light of day anyway, and save an actual human life?