A news story on WCHL radio in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is radically wrong on Stem Cells.
In part is says:
His research focuses mainly on mice, meaning Obama’s act won’t have a huge immediate impact for him. But he says it could open new doors in the future
So I wrote them this letter…
I do not challenge Dr. Sharpless. I challenge you.
I challenge your story as bad reporting of a political issue. The smelly garbage in the room that you fail to mention is that “stem cells” come from a variety of sources. However when referring to a federal ban “stem cells” is a shorthand for “embryonic stem cells” derived from aborted human fetuses.
You are implying that only “science” should decide what research is ethical because only “science” is informed enough to know. Is an embryo a person? If we cannot say definitively that it is not then we as a society should err on the side of reasoned compassion and not kill embryos for experiments without some overriding moral reason. “Science” is no more qualified to make this judgment and in some ways is less qualified than individual citizens acting together through their lawmakers. A science-based action group that states the ethical and moral considerations is The Coalition of American for Research Ethics. Their website states a significant number of organizations that support ethical research. See: http://www.stemcellresearch.org/alternatives/index.html
You mischaracterize “President Bush’s ban”. No ban existed or exists. The federal prohibition that was enacted with broad support – though against specific hostile opposition – was against using federal funds to do research on further new lines of stem cells derived from embryos. Translated that means more lines newly produced from embryos killed for that or some other purpose. Hardly a ban and an appropriate distinction if you would prefer the national government use our tax dollars on other pressing needs without the moral offense. I’ve heard arguments that “we can’t compete with other countries” or “its too hard to research when you have to track separate funding or segregate labs and projects.” I reject both of these arguments as moderately utilitarian and as not supported by the facts.
Finally there is a completely utilitarian argument that you avoid entirely. Perhaps Dr. Sharpless is unaware as any readers of your article remain unaware. Science has promised great things from stem cells but there are no therapies resulting from the use of embryonic stem cells. Zero. Please inform me if you find otherwise. There are significant other therapies – and lives extended & improved – from treatments using non-embryonic stem cells. An article posted by the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity says:
The opposition to harvesting cells – and worse intentionally aborting for collection – human embryos is conservative in a good sense of the word. It opposes what some consider to be a great evil. It favors spending tax dollars where the outcome is worthwhile. It avoids bans on research but simply avoids funding research that is not substantiated with results.
Now however the federal government has reentered the business of deciding what research is good and that my tax dollars should be used to experiment on cells taken from embryos aborted for that purpose. Now that’s change I CANNOT live with.
The Concerned Women for America seems to be on point in this fight: http://www.cwfa.org/main.asp
Their spokeswoman appears on their home page and on youtube in a very good interview on BBC
(BBC – in general and this reporter – has a liberal bent but still holds to their tradition of journalism that the US new media could learn from.)