Friday, May 28, 2004

Stem cells - why can't the ESCR proponents be honest?

Call me a Cro-Magnon if you want, but sometimes the only response some people deserve is a good old-fashioned bust in the mouth. And these lying conniving embryonic stem cell advocates are heading rapidly for that territory. I've been sitting on this post for a few days gradually sucking out venom and haven't fully succeeded.

See this by Eric Cohen on National Review Online. First the general:
The promise of embryonic-stem-cell research is very real but wholly speculative. No human therapies of any kind have yet been developed or tested, and none are on the horizon. And the notion that embryonic stem cells will cure "cancer" and "heart disease," broad categories of disease that encompass a complex array of particular ailments, is unsupported by even informed conjectures.
Now more specific:
"There are estimated to be more than 400,000 IVF embryos, which are currently frozen and will likely be destroyed if not donated, with informed consent of the couple, for research." This implies that while the Bush policy funds research on only a few dozen lines, hundreds of thousands of embryos are out there for scientific use. But this is simply false. The same 2003 study that arrived at the 400,000 number made it clear that only about three percent of these frozen embryos are actually available for research — the others remain in the custody of the parents who created them, and are specifically designated for future use in initiating a pregnancy. Whether the parents really plan to implant them or not — some parents simply cannot bear to let them go — these embryos are not public property. The study further did the math, and concluded that if all available frozen embryos were used only for embryonic-stem-cell research, they would yield about 275 lines of stem cells. Not thousands, let alone hundreds of thousands, but 275 is all scientists can expect to get from frozen IVF embryos.
But it gets worse:
This points to a serious question about the intentions of embryonic-stem-cell advocates. In the May issue of Scientific American, prominent embryonic-stem-cell researchers Robert Lanza and Nadia Rosenthal wrote that the actual therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells would be hampered by immune-rejection problems that could only be overcome by cell treatments compatible with the immune system of patients. "Hundreds of thousands of ES-cell lines might be needed to establish a bank of cells with immune matches for most potential patients," they wrote, and "creating that many lines could require millions of discarded embryos from IVF clinics."

We will likely never have "millions of discarded embryos," and nothing the president can do could change that. Moreover, the article suggests how far we might be from any workable treatments using embryonic stem cells. Does the House letter mean to call for a national project whose end is millions of embryos created for research? How many of the 206 signers understood that this might be necessary? And while it is true that many scientists believe we can find cures with fewer embryos, what will they do if Lanza and Rosenthal are right?
B-b-but we only have a few lines to work with!:
Finally, the letter offers no evidence that the number of available lines has already proven to be a barrier to any particular researcher's specific work at this point. No other advocate or scientist has offered such evidence either. It is certainly true that more money for more lines could mean more work would get done. But that is not the same as saying that ongoing work has hit a wall because of the limited number of lines now available for federal funding, or that it will soon hit such a wall.
But here's the part that really chaps me:
Stepping back, a pattern of facts emerges. Embryonic-stem-cell research is promising but so far purely speculative; the federal government in no way limits such research in the private sector; supporters of the research believe they can obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in private funding in the next few years, as the creation of new stem-cell institutes at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Wisconsin demonstrates; and yet, despite the ethical objections of a very substantial portion of the public, stem-cell advocates insist that Congress should compel every American to support the research with tax dollars, and to make that happen they inflate the promise and distort the facts surrounding the research.
We have obscenely rich individuals like Ted Turner (giving a $billion in stock to the UN? He would have done better with Enron) and George Soros who fund fashionable lefty causes - why don't they pony up for this rather than roping in all of us? Obviously this isn't about human health, it's about getting their way and forcing the rest of us to participate - they can have what they want without involving the govt and they choose not to.

Enough - I'm not disgustingly rich, so if I know what's good for me I'll have to drop this now. Just read it all, and then ask yourself why it's more important for the govt to pay than it is to get the work done.

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