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Friday, September 17, 2004

Issues, Part 1: Stem Cells

The other day I asked Nicolas at Farleyman's blog what he liked about John Kerry. While I was hoping for an analysis of Kerry as a candidate Nic posted back a list of more generic Democratic takes on the issues. Since this campaign season has been short discussing issues, I thought it would be nice to take his various points and talk about them. I will give both my personnel opinion and what I think of each of the candidates takes on these issues. This will end up being several posts. I am not sure how quickly I will get to all of the points but I hope it will be interesting. Also, I should make clear that when even if I disagreed with Bush on everything else, I strongly support Bush's take on the War on Terror and that issue for me, especially given my analysis of John Kerry, is the only one that matters in this election. Nic said:

1. I am for Stem Cell Research! Bush has cut federal funding of the research and put a ban on it!
I also am for stem cell research. Heck, I'm even in favor of reproductive cloning, a position that is way out of line with the main stream of the country. I think that both embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells have tremendous potential for fighting disease and eventually extending human life spans. Federal funding for this research is probably appropriate and a good investment in America's future competiveness. I acknowledge however that a large portion of the American populous views Embryonic Stem Cell Research as immoral science that involves the destruction of human life. Since their tax money is what is used for federal funding of this research it is correct to take their views into account. I think that stronger efforts to educate the population would win more supporters of stem cell research. This issue is also tied to the abortion debate (which will be part 2 of this series) in that the whole life starting at conception idea is definitely in play here. Where I think opponents of the Embryonic Stem Cell research idea go wrong is in not understanding the source of the embryos. As far as I know, all of the embryos used in stem cell research are byproducts of artificial insemination fertility techniques that produce excess embryos which are eventually destroyed. The artificial insemination debate is largely over, although activists are trying to use the stem cell debate to reopen this issue. If we agree, as is largely the case, that artificial insemination is not immoral even though excess embryos will be destroyed in the process, I cannot see any rational reason not to use these embryos for scientific advancement as opposed to simply destroying them. So that is my position on this issue. Which leads us to where the two candidates stand. Contrary to what Nic posted, Bush has not cut federal funding for this research or put a ban on it. Bush has increased the level of federal funding for all stem cell research (embryonic and adult) and, under his administration, federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is allowed for the first time ever, albeit with certain restrictions. Private institutions are not limited at all in regards to stem cell research. These are the conditions under which stem cell research can be federally funded:
The derivation process (which begins with the destruction of the embryo) was initiated prior to 9:00 P.M. EDT on August 9, 2001. The stem cells must have been derived from an embryo that was created for reproductive purposes and was no longer needed. Informed consent must have been obtained for the donation of the embryo and that donation must not have involved financial inducements.
Source: National Institutes of Health At the time this policy was put into place it appeared that their were enough stem cell lines that these limitations would not hinder research. Since then, it is my understanding that many of these lines have proven unsuitable and that more lines are needed. John Kerry has said that he supports lifting the restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. He has not given any specifics as to if he supports any limitations at all. Does he support federal funds for research on lines where no consent has been given for the destruction of the embryo, or the consent was obtained through payments? He has not said. He has also exaggerated the speed at which we can expect any useful technology from this science. I applaud John Kerry for opening up the debate on this subject, but he has yet to make any substantial claims as to what exactly he would propose and has distorted the effect of the 'ban' currently in place. He has also failed to make any acknowledgment of the many people who strongly feel that their tax dollars should not support this type of research. For more information see here and here


Blogger Random Gemini said...

I do think that stem cell research has the potential to do great and wonderous things for the future of the human race. I do think that it would be beneficial to everyone if appropriate ways to fund and support stem cell research can be found.

The moral ties in this issue however, are much like the moral concerns over the legality of abortion. It's a tough call to make. But, I feel that if the embryos used for research are embryos that were never going to get a chance to be born anyway, then why not let those lives mean something to the rest of humanity, so that they were not created in vain.

I think God understands that and this is why such things are there for us, as a whole, to take advantage of.

9/17/2004 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger Cubicle said...

frist off stem cells don't hold has much promise as adult stem cells.

if you were on a long trip where would you like to start?
At the beginning, or halfway through?

stems cells are at the beginning, adult stem cells are a few steps along on the development side. Stem cells only come in handly if you can't find adult stem cells.

seconly, i don't think the federal goverment should be involved.

thridly, new methods of keeping the avaible lines alive have been developed since the bush ban.

fourthly, the ban is also going to be outdated soon, if it is not already (if they goverment can't keep you, they should not even try).


in short stem cell reseach is over rated, frought with moral qualms.

why push the envolpe?

9/22/2004 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

It is very tough to tell at this stage of the research what types of stem cells hold more promise.

It is very possible, that even if adult stem cells become the eventual cure for diseases what we learn from embryonic stem cells might be the method that gets us there.

In any case, the benefits of this research are years away.

9/22/2004 09:06:00 PM  

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