Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bill Clinton: 'It Depends on What the Definition of 'Pro-life' Is'

The claim that cloning, and the stem cells it might produce, is on the verge of bringing a cure to your sick father with Alzheimer's or your debilitated mother with Parkinson's is a scandal. It is a cruel deception perpetrated by cynical scientists and ignorant politicians. Its purpose is clear: to exploit the desperation of the sick to garner political support for ethically problematic biotechnology.
--Charles Krauthammer

Bill Clinton was in town Friday to stump for what he calls the “pro-life” position--or at least that misunderstood segment of the pro-life cause that wants to kill embryos to feed the biotech jackpot of embryonic stem-cell research. (“Clinton backs stem cell bill”).

Says Clinton about Proposal 2:

This is the pro-life position, this is the pro-health position, this is the pro-science position and this is definitely the pro-Michigan position,” Clinton told more than 500 supporters at a fundraiser for MichiganCure, the group backing Proposal 2, which Michigan voters will consider on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The star of the fundraiser was Laura Jackson, 19, who has been paralyzed from the neck down for five years due to a cheerleading accident that broke her neck. She and her family claim “she has seen major improvements after a treatment based on stem cells she received in China.”

Borrowing a page from the Gospel According to John Edwards, Clinton promised the crowd that "Stem cell research will tell us how to give Laura a chance to walk again. And then we'll all be her cheerleaders."

Unfortunately, Ms. Jackson and her family have been claiming the controversial treatment led to improvements since at least December 2004, when her story was reported in The Guardian. ('I Don't Know How It Works'). In December 2004 they reported she could breathe off her ventilator for 15 minutes. A year later, they claimed she could breathe off her ventilator for 30 minutes. She is still confined to her wheelchair, four years after her "treatment."

Regardless, Ms. Jackson is not the beneficiary of embryonic stem cells of the type addressed in Proposal 2. Proposal 2 (for now) is limited to the use of frozen embryos that were not being used for implantation, and were to be discarded anyway. Laura, if she benefited at all, was "treated" with cells taken from the noses of aborted fetuses, fetuses at least 16 weeks along. The inventor of this technique, (which he practices in China almost exclusively on American patients with spinal cord injuries and money), is Dr. Hongyun Huang. As with all magic, he admits he doesn't know how it all works. ('I Don't Know How It Works').

The cells, harvested from the olfactory bulbs inside the noses of foetuses, seem to have unusual properties, which may include the ability to stimulate change in the nervous system. Ideally, says Huang, the foetuses should be 16 weeks old to achieve the best results. He says the mothers all give their consent for the embryos to be used in this way and do not receive payment. The Guardian asked to be shown where they come from, but was told this information was too sensitive.

The Guardian was unable to confirm whether or not the embryos give their consent along with their mothers, although Huang confirmed that the embryos definitely don't receive payment. Nor could the Guardian confirm reports that Huang came up with the idea for the whole thing while playing "got your nose" with his sole non-aborted three-year-old niece.

And I can tell you I'm personally creeped out, and apparently so is the Guardian writer, Jonathon Watts, with the whole Chinese "never-mind-where-we-get-all-the-aborted-fetuses" thing.

But lest anyone think I'm being unduly dismissive of Huang--even anti-science about it--you need to know that

None of [Huang's] claims has been proven to western scientific standards, but Huang's willingness to think the unthinkable in order to cure the incurable is inspiring hope; so much hope that patients are putting aside ethical qualms, paying tens of thousands of dollars and flying to Beijing to act as his guinea pigs.


Complicating the debate is Huang's lack of statistical data and and his refusal to carry out the double-blind trials considered necessary in western circles to rule out the placebo effect. The Chinese neurosurgeon says such tests are unethical because they involve cutting someone open and only pretending to treat them. "This would not be legal in China," he says. "Even if it was, I wouldn't do it. Double-blind trials only harm the patient."

And they say we're anti-science.

Lastly, I should point out that Laura's father, Daryl, whom the Guardian quotes, obviously in error, as saying he doesn't "agree with abortion," is nowhere as staunchly "pro-life" as, say, Bill Clinton.

In 2004 Laura's father said:

"We need 100 more Dr Huangs. And we need more cells. It's a different government over here. They have to trim the population. There are 15 to 20 million abortions in China a year. If everyone who was aborted could save a life, there would be no sick people left in the world."

Other than that, he's personally opposed to abortion. I have no doubt that Daryl Jackson's badly distorted views are the result of the tragedy he has witnessed in his daughter's life. But distorted they are, as even Guardian reporter Jonathon Watts noticed. Watt's can't help commenting on this statement of Daryl's:

"I don't agree with abortion, but it will happen anyway. In the US, we do abortions but don't use the cells. In China, they don't just take life and destroy it - they give something back. It's like lemonade out of lemons. You take something bad and you make it good." Such reasoning requires a moral somersault, but it is one that can be done easily in China. That is enough to generate hope.

Hope of some sort, anyhow. But not, apparently, cures. Laura Jackson appeared at the fundraiser Friday night still paralyzed from the neck down, still in her wheelchair, four years after being Huang's guinea pig.

There is no doubt that Proposal 2 is going to lead to an increased demand for "more cells," more fetuses, more "lemons" to make lemonade, more sources of the magical organs of human beings to feed this ghastly science. There is no doubt that this industry will eventually start demanding both cloning, and then more aborted fetuses, whether for their noses, or some other part of their murdered corpses.


Anonymous said...

Your an idiot

Anonymous said...

Pro-life is embryonic research. That fact that you believe that throwing embryos away over using it for research is distorted. How was saving peoples lives with organ tranplants ever discovered? Research. How were cures like, chemo therapy, ever discovered? Research. You have offended the disabled and ill-stricken profoundly. Embryonic stem cell research is NOT from aborted fetuses. If there are disabled and ill-stricken people who do not agree with it then thats their choice, they can choose another solution, no one's forcing them to get a cure from stem cells. But why do people like you get to make that decision for me? The fact is, the embryos are thrown out, why not use them to help others to live and prosper? Only 5 states in America are not able to do research on embryonic stem cell research. Arkansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Michigan.

Anonymous said...

1. Embryonic stem cells exist ONLY in the first 14 days after conception. Research has been done on them by hundreds of scientists in the US and other countries for more than 10 years and has yielded NO verifiable hint of a cure for anyone.
2. Adult stem cell (meaning stem cells from humans older than 14 days after conception) research, on the other hand, has yielded an overwhelming abundance success in treatment and cure of over 70 diseases. New techniques and cures are being discovered daily. Wouldn't it be better to use the money for this kind of research?
3. Embryonic stem cell research may now be obsolete anyway. Two separate research groups have succeeded in creating stem cells that have the same characteristics and malleability as embryonic stem cells. These new cells, called "Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells" are created from reprogrammed skin cells. These should be better than ES Cells, because, conceivably, they could be created from one's own skin cells and therefore eliminate potential rejection issues.