Just The facts, Please
The great hope of stem cells is making cells and tissues for new medical therapies. Pluripotent stem cells offer the possibility of a renewal source of replacement cells and tissues to treat a myriad of diseases, conditions and disabilities including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, other diseases of the brain, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Scientists have been able to do experiments with human embryonic stem cells (hESC's) only since 1998. The vast majority of this work has been over the past five years. Federal funds to support hESC research have been available only since August 9, 2001 when President Bush announced his decision on limited federal funding for hESC research, pending controlling legislation. Thus, although hESC's are thought to offer potential cures and therapies for many devastating diseases, research using them is still in its early stages. Many people do not realize that in medical research it may take years, even decades for research and clinical studies to prove that certain therapies are effective, and safe enough to be used on humans.
Adult stem cells, which recently have shown very high potentials for success in research, are blood-forming stem cells in bone marrow (called hematopoietic stem cells, or HSC's) and are currently the only type of stem cell commonly used to treat human diseases. Doctors have been transferring HSC's in bone marrow transplants for over 40 years. More advanced techniques of collecting, or "harvesting" HSC's are now used in order to treat leukemia, lymphoma and several more inherited blood disorders. The clinical potential of adult stem cells has also been demonstrated in the treatment of other human diseases that include diabetes and advanced kidney cancer.
Unfortunately, liberal politicians and left-leaning writers such as Michael Kinsley have sought to override the moral dilemma concerning the research of hESC's by using the federal funding of stem cell research as medical controversy, and to criticize President Bush and the Republicans. Writing in TIME magazine in May 2004, Kinsley seeks to trivialize and sensationalize this important medical and moral issue by trashing it and using comedic routines to ridicule those who oppose using human embryos to make body parts for others. President Bush is the only president to ever fund stem cell research.
It is a good idea to expand federal funding of stem cell research. It is a bad idea to do that without prohibiting research using embryos created specifically to be used in research and then destroyed. It is not so much the destruction of existing human embryos - more than a million are destroyed every year in abortions plus thousands more in IVF clinics anyway. Taking a handful of embryos from fertility clinics where they're meant to be destroyed in due course alters no great morality. Humanity's profound threat is the creation of embryos willfully for the sole purpose of someone else's end and giving it no humanitarian stature at all. What is before us is the rise of an industry of human parts manufacture - that has already been demonstrated elsewhere - where human embryos are created not as God intended, but for spare body parts.
So we need, and the president now has endorsed, a dual policy so that research can continue to move forward in stem cells by expanding federal funding, and also by using some discarded embryos, but couple that with a firm national ban on creating human embryos for any purpose other than the birth of a human baby. The ban must be strictly enforced by imprisonment laws for individuals and corporations, as well as importation of embryos from other countries. President Bush has supported the Castle-DeGette bill in the senate from inception, but the Congress has not acted.
Now we hear and read those same liberal politicians, scientists and writers who say that Bush's plan isn't working, and the stem cell lines eligible for federal funding are contaminated. Here are the facts as reported by the White House, noted research scientists and corporate laboratory CEO's:
1) Bush's plan has already made federally-funded stem cell lines widely available to scientists and hESC research is progressing at record rates;
2) 85% of ALL hESC science done in the world is done from stem cell lines approved for federal funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH, 2007);
3) Scientists have proven time and again the stem cell lines are not contaminated by animal cells, particularly mouse cells ;
4) Tom Okarma, CEO of the stem cell company Geron has stated: "Stuff published that says federally funded stem cell lines are contaminated is hogwash - if you know how to grow them they're fine." (3/29/06)
5) Even liberal TIME magazine now says "Science has outrun the politics of stem cell research." (Time, 7/24/06)
What will happen in this important issue when President Bush leaves office next year is anyone's guess. As long as Americans tolerate the murders of human babies in abortion and fertility clinics and continue to elect liberal and socialist politicians, our children now growing up, and their children growing in this environment will continue to support these inhuman policies. Socialists and leftists have differing views of human life than those of traditional Americans of the early 20th century. Sadly, since the 1960's and continuing through the present time Americans have demonstrated an amazing desertion of those humanitarian and Christian values we once cherished and held dear. But that is another story for another time.
My own personal view of embryonic stem cell research is that liberal politicians, abortionists and socialists will win out over time, and "medical science" will be turned into "medical political science." I suspect within 20 years we and the Japanese and others will be playing God, creating and killing human life and routinely turning out human body parts just like we do Toyotas, Mercedes and Fords - but somewhat more pricey.
That is the real Brave New World before us.
Dr. Key is a former Director of a NIH-sponsored ADRC at a National Laboratory and co-founder of MEDITECH, Inc. He is the author of several professional papers on Diseases of the Brain, and also the author of Gideon's Trumpet, a novel of war and peace in the 21st century. He is a veteran of U.S. Navy aviation and currently writes features articles and political commentary for the Internet and prints media. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.