Friday, July 21, 2006

Lungren Commentary on Adult Stem Cell Research

NPR : Ethics Take Precedence over Medical Advances

One of the best comments on adult stem cell research that I have ever heard or read is on audio at the above link. Dan Lungren has made the best, most succinct and accurate set of arguments I have ever heard in just three and a half minutes. He expresses compassion and gives reasoned arguments for the truth. This is a model for bioethical discourse.

Lungren has really done credit to himself and greatly furthered the civil debate of this issue with this commentary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree with your comments. Here is the full text of the broadcast.

Real Cures or False Hope?

I am one of seven children. I'm the second oldest. My brother John is 2 years and 2 days older than I. We grew up together closer than any other members of the family.

15 years ago, my brother developed Parkinson's. I've learned a lot of things from my brother ... most of all that there's a difference between right and wrong. There is a moral dimension in most of the serious issues that we must face.

HR 810 would permit federal funds to be used for research on embryos that were created in vitro for fertility treatments. Such human embryos are said to be eligible for destructive research, since they are doomed to die anyway. Applying this logic, one could deem prisoners on death row eligible organ donors, since they too are going to die anyway.

Proponents of the bill claim it offers “real hope” for those suffering from debilitating diseases. This hope has so far proven illusory. Despite 25 years of animal research on embryonic stem cells, the dramatic predictions made by its proponents have not been realized. This is in large part due to problems relating to tissue rejection and the tendency for tumor formation. Contrast this with the results of adult stem cell research. Currently treatments for 72 diseases are being carried out with human patients. And these treatments have not required the destruction of human embryos.

Many of my colleagues who supported HR 810 inexplicably voted against funding for alternate sources of pluripotent cells – cells which are able to differentiate into virtually all cell types in the human body.

Some adult and cord blood stem cells have demonstrated the capacity to be pluripotent. A recent article in Nature magazine identifies studies in Japan, Germany and California indicating that pluripotent stem cells can be derived from innovative technologies – such as manipulating adult cells so that they begin to act like embryonic stem cells.

Would I like to support embryonic stem cell research without a question of ethics because it might assist my brother? Sure. Would I like to see embryonic stem cell research in the area of cancer where it might have helped one of my sisters who has had cancer? Yes. Would I like to see it in terms of research of cancer that plagues 4-year-old children like my nephew? Of course. But can we divorce all of that from the ethical norm that we must present here?

Of course, we cannot.

Even if embryonic stem cell research should someday prove effective, the destruction of one class of human beings for the benefit of another class of human beings raises the most telling ethical considerations. Human life should never be considered a means to an end. We must never fall prey to the ethical failures exemplified by the Tuskegee experiments where nearly 400 subjects, most of them poor black sharecroppers, were left to die from the ravages of syphilis. It is crucial for us as nation to stand firm for an ethos that innocent human life should be protected as an end in itself.

True scientific progress entails evaluating not only what we can do, but what we should do.