Stem Cell War
How Can I Do God's Will When Confronted with Decisions at the
End of Life?
Unlike embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells do have a record of healing. But, you wouldn't know it from the media.
State GOP lawmakers in Minnesota (April 2011) are trying to ban the cloning of human embryos, a technology tied to embryonic-stem-cell research (ESCR). Critics of the legislation say it's just another instance of the war on science. To prove it, they brought forward a woman, Trisha Knuth, whose little boy, Charlie, has been relieved of a horrific skin disease by a stem-cell transplant.
The only problem with this story is that the therapy that healed Charlie uses adult stem cells, from a donor. Yet when Charlie's mother testified impassionedly to the MN legislature, you had to search carefully in media reports for the information that her son's healing actually had no connection with embryonic stem cells.
"That happens all the time!" an exasperated Dr. Theresa Deisher told David Klinghoffer. Deisher is the Stanford-trained biotech researcher whose lawsuit last year shut down government funding of ESCR for 17 days. "People are treated with adult stem cells and they twist the story to promote embryonic stem cells," she said.
Deisher argues that far from being in conflict with medicine's mission, traditional moral concerns are strongly in line with it. ESCR, ongoing for 30 years and lavishly funded by the National Institutes of Health, has no record of healing. Yet morally unproblematic adult stem cells have worked wonders -- notably in other countries. U.S. federal funding for trials of novel treatments using these less politically correct stem cells has lagged.
Neuroscientist Jean Peduzzi-Nelson of Wayne State University, testified before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee in September 2010 about the peer-reviewed by underreported advances that have been made using adult stem cells. In Portugal, a young man paralyzed by a severe spinal-cord injury was healed to the point of being able to walk 30 feet unassisted.
In the U.S., too, reports the New England Journal of Medicine, patients suffering from corneal blindness can now see, and others suffering from sickle-cell anemia have gone years without symptoms. In 2003, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, a man with multiple sclerosis received adult stem cells, and his symptoms disappeared in four months.
We can do well, helping people to get well, by doing good and refraining from doing harm to innocent life. How unfortunate that when it comes to treatments with adult stem cells -- for stroke, diabetes, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, and other maladies -- the government is reluctant to make an adequate investment.
The dilemma that pits medicine against conservatism or science against religion is false. In a false dilemma, alternatives and gradations are arbitrarily excluded.
The real war here is not a war on science. It is a war on truth.
(SOURCE: "The Stem Cell War" by David Klinghoffer, National Review Online. Klinghoffer is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.)