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President Bush Vetoes Embryonic Stem Cell Bill

Critics Unconscionably Say Hope Gone For Sufferers.  Oblivious To Non-Embryonic Successes.  Policy Is Good For Ethics, Science and Sufferers.

On June 20th, President Bush again vetoed legislation that would overturn his embryonic stem cell research policy.  The President has the votes to sustain a veto.  Senator John Ensign is the only Nevada Representative to support the president's policy.

Critics of the President's veto in Nevada say that this removes hope for sufferers.  These critics cannot be taken seriously.   In an article in the Reno Gazette Journal, Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada said President Bush, "with the stroke of a pen, struck away the hopes and dreams" of cures for chronic illnesses.  “It's a shame (Bush) is kow-towing to a very small group instead of doing what's best for the American people suffering from chronic ailments.”  Mylan Hawkins, executive director of the Nevada Diabetes Association said, “We are deeply saddened that once again the hope for so many Americans who suffer with incurable conditions has been shattered.” Molly Dillon of the Nevada Juvenile Diabetes Research says “this has nothing to do with cloning…. This is about fertilized eggs from fertility clinics that would otherwise be thrown away as medical waste. It's not a right-to-life issue, it's a right-to-quality-of-life issue."  Planned Parenthood's Allison Gauldin said that thinking that adult stem cells are superior is naive.

It is obvious to anyone with a little knowledge about the research that embryonic stem cell research is not the only hope-if it has any hope at all.  There is plenty of hope beyond embryonic stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research appears to show NO hope at all.   When the president announced his veto a woman who had her bladder replaced with one made from her own stem cells was standing with the president.  This month we learned that diabetic participants in a Brazilian study went off of insulin for long periods of time after being treated with their own stem cells.   Another woman Carol Franz; of Las Vegas was also with the president.  She has beaten cancer twice by using her own adult stem cells.

 And that is just the tip of the ice berg.  You would think that people speaking for sufferers and working for relief and cures for their ailments would know that there are over 70 benefits for human sufferers through non embryonic and adult stem cells.  There are well over 1000 human trials.  There are no human embryonic stem cell benefits or trials.

There is also hope beyond stem cell research.  Two stories have appeared in the last few days that have nothing to do with any kind of stem cell research.  One concerns an experimental Parkinson’s trial using gene therapy.  The other is about a promising Alzheimer’s vaccine which attacks the plaque build up in the brain.  Those possibilities have nothing to do with stem cell research at all. 

It is utterly irresponsible and unconscionable to crush hopes of sufferers by telling them that if the President will not expand their preferred-and for many, their politically preferred-option, that they have no hope.  We should expect that the people above would know about these things and understand that these are huge reasons for hope.   And critics should think twice before calling pro-life ideas naïve.  What is truly naive saying there is no hope after researchers began taking back their promises this summer.  Instead of cures, they are now talking about models for understanding disease.  That is a far cry from the miraculous cures that are said to be at our fingertips if the president would open the treasury to the special interests of the biotech lobby. 

This is a right to life issue and it is about cloning.  Human embryonic stem cell research is wrong-as we noted in the same RGJ article, because “No human being is expendable for science or anything else.”  Embryonic stem cell research kills human embryos.  It doesn’t matter how small human embryos are.  It doesn’t matter that they are going to be thrown away or that some hypothetical good could come of it.  It is offensive and demeaning to human dignity to say that any human being is "medical waste."

That's because human beings have inherent ultimate value.  This ultimate value is intrinsic to us and woven into the fabric of our being.  It’s not earned, achieved, nor grown into or gradually realized.  It does not depend on our size, our circumstances, being wanted or valued by others.  We are not expendable because our demise could benefit others.  Our ultimate infinite value belongs to us by our existence as human beings from the first moment of our existence.  Once anyone becomes expendable, everyone becomes negotiable.  There’s no way to firewall the proposition that certain humans are expendable and keep it from ultimately impacting others. 

So this is a right to life issue. That makes it an ethical issue.   

And why is this a cloning issue?  Because even if the president caved to the powerful biotech industry, it is not likely that these embryos would create the kind of genetic diversity necessary for patient specific matches for mass cures.  Why proceed if there are no mass cures?  To create those genetic matches, researchers believe that cloning, using the same technique that created Dolly the Sheep (somatic cell nuclear transfer-or nuclear transfer), will be necessary to create embryos almost identical to the patient.  The cloned near identical twin would be destroyed for his or her stem cells in the hope that this near match will not be rejected. 

This is also a woman's issue because cloning technology requires unfertilized eggs.  Dolly the Sheep was created after the 276th attempt.  Even if cloning were to become much more efficient, it would require vast and enormous amounts of unfertilized eggs to create matches for the 100+ million Americans who could benefit.  This would involve hyper-ovulatory drugs and surgery to get the eggs.  Risks include infertility.  If women are not willing to be exploited for this kind of research and therapy-if it can work, researchers are likely to use rabbits or other animals for those eggs. 

Non-embryonic stem cell research would not require any of this. 

Finally, the president's policy has been good for science and sufferers.  The president's policy of limiting federal funding to embryonic stem cells procured from embryos destroyed prior to the date of the policy (August 9, 2001) has led scientists to look for other avenues.  The results have been amazing.  If the president had not stood his ground, it is likely that much of this research would not have been done and we would be left with embryonic stem cell research, which to this date has produced no hope at all.

Don Nelson


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