Friday, December 08, 2006

Stem Cell Research : Behold the Scoreboard

The scoreboard is from the web site of “Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics.” The message is that 72 conditions have been treated successfully using adult stem cells, compared to zero with embryonic stem cells.

Dr. David Crouse of the University of Nebraska Medical Center recently joined the chorus of critics bashing the claim that 72 conditions have been treated successfully with adult stem cells. Dr. Crouse called the scoreboard “baloney” at a public forum at UNMC on stem cell research.

Advocates of embryo-destructive research have taken aim at the scoreboard because they know it gets people’s attention. The number “72” is a concrete fact that cuts through the fog.

Critics try to undermine “72” by arguing that 72 conditions have not been cured with adult stem cells. The scoreboard indicates that adult stem cells have provided benefit to humans suffering from 72 conditions. There has been some degree of success in each case. In some cases there have been outright cures. In others there has been progress.

For instance, Jacki Rabon, an athlete who was crippled by a spinal cord injury, now walks with braces after adult stem cell therapy. (She tells her story at the Do No Harm web site.) Jacki is not “cured,” but she has benefited from adult stem cell therapy. Do No Harm provides peer-reviewed references to document this and the other beneficial treatments.

It’s probably a good sign that critics are attacking the scoreboard. They wouldn’t waste the effort unless they thought it was affecting the debate. It’s also more attention for the Do No Harm web site. Do yourself a favor and visit Do No Harm for the best in stem cell research news.


Sandy Goodman said...

See below and

Published Friday
December 8, 2006

Midlands Voices: Dishonesty clouds research issue

The writer, of Omaha, is on the board of directors of Nebraskans for Research.

The worst form of cheating in American democracy today is intellectual dishonesty.
- Michael Kinsley

Participants in the public debate over embryonic stem-cell research, especially those who speak for prominent organizations and institutions, have an ethical obligation to be intellectually honest.

As we see often in the Public Pulse and the More Commentary page of The World-Herald and in the newsletters of organizations that oppose this research, some religiously motivated opponents claim to base their arguments on science, denying their true motivations.

In doing so, they discard standards of scientific accuracy and logic in the pursuit of their policy objectives. It is time for these opponents of embryonic stem-cell research to stop the intellectually dishonest arguments.

"But adult stem cells are the true answer, already showing therapeutic usefulness while embryonic stem cells have not. Anyway, it's all about the money," say such opponents, arguing that the issue is science, not religion.

As those who attended the recent University of Nebraska Medical Center "mini-med school" presentation on stem-cell research can attest, such claims reflect an inadequate understanding of stem-cell science and constitute slander on the goodwill and dedication of medical researchers. These arguments have been so thoroughly refuted in so many readily available publications that one can rightly say that those who still put them forward are betraying their ethical obligation to intellectual honesty.

Even prominent, local, Catholic embryonic stem-cell research opponents acknowledge the agreement of careful and honest scientists that both embryonic and adult stem cells have therapeutic potential and even that embryonic stem cells possess unique therapeutic power.

"But the embryology textbooks at UNMC say that human development begins at conception," opponents declare further. It is not the biology of human development that is in dispute, however, but rather the conclusions that individuals draw when reasoning from that knowledge regarding the moral status of the blastocyst-stage embryo in the context of embryonic stem-cell research.

Physics texts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln describe the principles that underlie the atomic bomb. But just as the morality of the atomic-bomb decision required that the consequences of the bomb's use or non-use be taken into account, so does the decision regarding the morality of embryonic stem-cell research.

Although the circumstances are profoundly different, as then, the conclusions that individuals draw regarding embryonic stem-cell research are informed by, sometimes dictated by, their religious and philosophical commitments.

Clearly, opposition to embryonic stem-cell research derives primarily from such commitments. Substantially, all opposition to the research in general, and government funding of it in particular, is based on religious traditions. This is evidenced by the fact that the public campaign against embryonic stem-cell research is centered in certain religious institutions and organizations committed to specific religious views, even though the latter often try to hide them.

While the arguments advanced by the public speakers of these institutions and organizations do not usually make reference to the doctrinal foundation of their opposition, it does not take much digging to unearth it.

Of course, religiously motivated citizens have the same rights as anyone to advocate for the adoption of particular public policies, even basing their arguments explicitly on doctrinal principles if they wish. Policymakers, however, have an obligation to base public policy on strictly secular grounds, especially when the issue, for most, is a religious and philosophical question in an area where there are profound differences among religious traditions.

The heart of the debate over embryonic stem-cell research is the moral status of the blastocyst-stage embryo. There is no legitimate scientific controversy. Those who argue against the research on the basis that the embryo at this stage is morally equivalent to those suffering children and adults, now and in the future, who stand to benefit from that research should be intellectually honest and admit that the disagreement is ultimately religious and philosophical, not scientific.

But as University of Notre Dame theologian Jean Porter has written, they also should acknowledge humbly that no society can afford to determine difficult decisions of public policy on the basis that just "because there are philosophical arguments to the effect that the early-stage embryo is fully personal, and these arguments convince some persons, therefore we should all act as if we were convinced by those arguments."

Copyright ©2006 Omaha World-Herald®. All rights reserved.

Chip Maxwell said...

Sandy, next time at least give this blog the first publishing priority. :)

See my response in my Dec. 12 blog post.