Who Hijacked Our Country

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Case For Stem Cell Research

OK, that’s the end of the argument. Case closed. Take one look at this suffering pathetic sack of pus and realize that stem cell research could have made a difference in the life of this, this putrid thing. It spews, it spouts, it oozes — it’s sickening. You’ll want to look away, but that would be wrong.

Yes, it’s too late to help this particular wretched bloatbag. But if stem cell research could prevent this from happening to just one person…

39 Comments:

Blogger Stephanie said...

I'm not familiar with your position on Stem Cell Research, and this post really doesn't clarify it. You either don't like Michael J. Fox for some reason; or you're implying that stem cell research can "cure" Rush Limbaugh.

I'm assuming the latter due to your consistent "unfriendly" attitude towards all things Republican.

However, here's some actual information that just might sway you on stem cell research.

Adult Stem Cell Research:

"Stem cells were harvested from the patient's brain using a routine brain biopsy procedure. They were cultured and expanded to several million cells. About 20 percent of these matured into dopamine-secreting neurons. In March 1999, the cells were injected into the patient's brain.

Three months after the procedure, the man's motor skills had improved by 37 percent and there was an increase in dopamine production of 55.6 percent. One year after the procedure, the patient's overall Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale had improved by 83 percent — this at a time when he was not taking any other Parkinson's medication!"

Again, that's adult stem cell research making progess, actually helping patients.

As for, Embryonic Stem Cell Research:

"A study that attempted to treat Parkinson's disease by implanting cells from aborted fetuses into patients' brains not only failed to show an overall benefit but also revealed a disastrous side effect, scientists report.

In about 15% of patients, the cells apparently grew too well, churning out so much of a chemical that controls movement that the patients writhed and jerked uncontrollably. The researchers say there is no way to remove or deactivate the transplanted cells.
...
Although the paper depicts the patients with side effect in impassive clinical terms, doctors who have seen them paint a much different picture. Paul. E. Greene, a neurologist at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and a researcher in the study, said the uncontrollable movements some patients suffer are "absolutely devastating."

"They chew constantly, their fingers go up and down, their wrists flex and distend," he said. And the patients writhe and twist, jerk their heads, fling their arms about."It was tragic, catastrophic," Greene said. "It's a real nightmare. And we can't selectively turn it off."

One man was so badly affected that he could no longer eat and had to use a feeding tube, Greene said. In another, the condition came and went unpredictably throughout the day, and when it occurred, the man's speech was unintelligible.

For now, Greene said, his position is clear: "No more fetal transplants. We are absolutely and adamantly convinced that this should be considered for research only. And whether it should be research in people is an open question.""

Embryonic stem cell causing pain and suffering without any hope for relief!

Which would you trust with your life?!?

October 26, 2006 at 4:49 AM  
Blogger Ananke said...

Soooo true!!! Only an ass like that would attack a man battling Parkinson's disease. He needs to be removed to an undisclosed location far away from cameras and/or microphones.

October 26, 2006 at 9:03 AM  
Blogger Cind said...

If you're referring to MJF then calling him a 'pathetic sack of puss' and referring to him as 'it' is quite sickening in itself.
I, for one, would rather not get in to the stem cell debate with someone who refers to another human being in those terms.
I hope, for your sake, that Parkinson's never affects you or a member of your family because I'm sure then you'll be ashamed of this abhorrent post.
My apologies if you're not referring to MJF but to be fair your post links are a little obscure.

October 26, 2006 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Stephanie: Well, I can see you’ve done your research on this. I’m in favor of stem cell research, but I’ll admit I haven’t studied the issue in depth the way you have. The purpose of my post was to blast Rush Limbaugh for his despicable mean-spirited comments about Michael J. Fox. (The second link in my post refers to it.) Making fun of Michael J. Fox’s bizarre movements and accusing him of either faking it or being off his meds?? That’s just lower than low. What’s he going to do next, go up to somebody in a wheelchair and say “get your lazy ass out of that chair; I know you just want a free ride”?

I sure hope Limbaugh’s fellow Conservatives are appalled by their hero’s comments, because he really reached a new low this time.

Ananke: Yeah, I think that would be the most cruel punishment for Limbaugh, being taken out of the public eye. The only audience for his spewings would be himself — he’d go stark raving mad.

Cind: Wait, you misunderstood! No I wasn’t making fun of Michael J. Fox! I was blasting Rush Limbaugh for his lower-than-low comments making fun of Fox. The second link in this post is an article by Patti Davis condemning Limbaugh for his comments.

Since 2 out of 3 commenters weren’t clear on what I was doing, I’ll have to admit I didn’t word it right. I hope this will clear things up for future viewers. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

October 26, 2006 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger Jolly Roger said...

Not only that but..... He's a Nazi.


And Stephanie is making an argument she can't support, because there simply isn't enough information available yet on embryonic stem cell function. Certainly there are some promising findings in other countries. The hysteria over using cells for research that are destined for the trash can is political in nature and makes absolutely no real sense.

A quick look at Stephanie's site left me no doubt as to what her agenda actually is. I strongly encourage those reading this to not limit yourself to checking her claims (and also the counterclaims)-drop by her blog for a peek as well.

October 26, 2006 at 2:04 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Tom,

The reason that Rush (not defending him so much as being fair) said that is because MJF said it himself in his book. He has gone off his meds to better demonstrate (which is how I would word it) his condition. Specifically, he did this before a Congressional committee.

Now, I'm not saying I would attack MJF for doing this. Understanding the devestation of Parkinson's is difficult if all you ever see is the "good" days, when the meds are working or when they're available at all. (Not a problem for MJF and his sufficient wealth, but it is for many people.)

However, I do find it very odd that MJF touts embryonic stem cell research, when it is adult stem cell research that is making marked progress in alleviating Parkinson's disease, and other diseases.

Limbaugh's comments were uncouth, which is typical, but that doesn't mean they weren't essentially true. Then again, I don't really know what Rush said, other than he made an ass out of himself by denegrating MJF, who was by and large the wrong target here. Maybe he fudged it more than is being represented here and elsewhere. Being without cable does have many advantages; not listening to Rush is one of them.

October 26, 2006 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Jolly Roger,

First I must notice that you do not show any facts of your own; then I will readily admit that I do not make my stance on human life a secret, nor would I wish to do so.

However, when it comes to adult versus embryonic stem cell research, scientific facts supports adult stem cells, while the media continues to blindly support embryonic stem cells, because it's a politically hot topic and sells, which is much more important to the media outlets than human life ever will be.

October 26, 2006 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger ariadneK, Ph.D. said...

You rock, m'dear, once again. Thanks for a great post. :-)

October 26, 2006 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Jolly Roger: Excellent video. LOL.

Stephanie: Like I was saying, I’m in favor of stem cell research, but I haven’t studied the issue that closely. I respect your opinion, since you’ve clearly done lots of research on this. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this. The main point of my post was to slam Rush Limbaugh for stooping even lower than he ever has before.

Ariadnek: Thanks!

October 26, 2006 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger Jolly Roger said...

Stephanie,

I have both read of stem cell research being conducted in Germany, Norway, even Mexico, and-more importantly-I read back through your blog a few pages. I stand by what I have already said.

October 26, 2006 at 5:43 PM  
Blogger Cind said...

Well that's alright then! ;-}

October 27, 2006 at 1:56 AM  
Blogger frstlymil said...

Stephanie. Embryonic stem cell research is pro-life. The concept that blastocysts in storage are better off thrown away, or destroyed, rather than use them for life is unconcionable and NOT a pro-life stance. The percentage of people who will use those blastocysts to have children of their own is extremely small - add the financial element and the number grows even smaller. In case you didn't know it is $25,000 a try for in vitro or implantation and insurance doesn't cover it, nor is it a guaranty that those tries will result in a viable pregnancy. While embryonic stem cell research will not help people like Michael J. Fox (by the way it is the medication that MAKES you shake, people - the alternative would be frozen immobility which is what happens if you DON'T take the medication)in his lifetime - it has the chance to save millions of people, especially children, of diseases that have not been eradicated any other way. Adult stem cells have promise, but not to the extent that embryonic stem cells do because of the natural breakdown process accompanied by aging. Then there is the economic reality of opposing this. Missouri is one of the states with the best hospitals in the country. People from all over the country go there for certain treatments - I know - my little sister is one of them - Those hospitals in large part support the economy of the entire state. Without the ability to continue their scientific research into lifesaving measures and techniques - those hospitals go under, close, are no longer available - and the economy tanks, not to mention the sick people that need what those particular hospitals have.

Stephanie - your sources on this are vague at best. Before you decide to announce that people like Michael J. Fox won the Natural Selection lottery and should just die - or that kid down the block with muscular dystrophy that can't be helped with adult stem cells should just go through life like that - so you can save undifferentiated tissue in a freezer - please research this a bit more.

October 27, 2006 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

I am all in favor of stem-cell research. I am in favor of more research being done with embryonic stem cells, so we can actually determine the degree to which there are real benefits from using those cells. I think it is nice to preserve life in its unborn state. I also think it is nice to increase the quality of life for those of us who have born (and even for those of us who have been born again). Science has created some problems, but I think the plus side of science far outweighs the negative... and that people who, for religious reasons, want to suppress American scientific research that is even potentially beneficial to humanity, might want to consider whether or not they are in the minority, and when they find they are, allow the rest of us to move on. It is a contentious issue, but if the use of stem cells can eventually provide relief for sufferers of chronic or incurable diseases, I think most Americans would agree that it is something we need to pursue. A healthy nation is a stronger nation. A curious nation is a stronger nation. Allowing our scientists to use the scientific method to reach conclusions that could lead to medical advances is paramount in keeping our nation intellectually curious and physically healthy. Anything else, to my mind, suggests a desire to return the world to the Dark Ages. I think that is what we call the time when religion ruled the world.

Not picking on you in particular, Stephanie. Your weblog does contain some good insights, and I like your comments about the Olbermann habeas corpus piece. I just think science should be supported by the government, not suppressed if it doesn't meet the president's spiritual conditions.

October 27, 2006 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Gonzo said...

The point being missed by Stephanie is that, even if MJF said he's gone off his meds in the past to demonstrate the effects of his disease, which I don't personally have any problem with (Steph, would you rather that folks with unpleasant diseases go back to being cloistered away in asylums so that you don't have to see the unpleasantness?), MJF's jerky movements were caused BY THE MEDICATION!!!

I refuse to even link to anything verifying this because it's all over the place now, and I'm just so annoyed by folks like Stephanie, who, while they might have done a lot of reading on the subject, still jump to judge others.

October 27, 2006 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Jane Lake said...

BEWARE THE SLIPPERY SLOPE!

I'm sure there are a lot of diseases we could cure by doing nasty experiments on live humans, or freshly killed ones, but lines must be drawn in a moral society.

Embryonic stem cell research (which Stephanie points out correctly) is smoke and mirrors and clearly crosses the line.

Let's invest in appropriate scientific research and not Frankensteinian trial and error approaches before we find ourselves living in a world where we are all potential scientific material.

October 27, 2006 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

frstlymil,

"...people like Michael J. Fox won the Natural Selection lottery and should just die..."

That is not even remotely close to my stance. Not even vaguely similiar. These same researchers claim that my children can be "cured" via the research potential of embryonic stem cells. However, what they don't acknowledge in mainstream media, what I have invested significant time looking into scientific journals to find out, is that embryonic stem cell researchers don't even understand what makes these cells different. They don't understand the causes of the disorders/diseases they hope to cure. And, they have no idea, except for a small hypothetical chance, if they can even manipulate embryonic stem cells successfully, let alone in a manner that produces something useful.

And it *still* has the same risks, even in the hypothetical scenario where it works at all, of rejection that all other tissue to tissue transfers have between different human beings, which is something that adult stem cells don't.

The cure to disorders like Parkinson's (which, btw, my husband and my sons are at risk, via family history, of developing sometime in the future), muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and a multitude of other disorders the scientific community does not yet understand is not going to be found by searching for some magical key imbedded in the undeveloped bodies of frozen babies; it will be found by researching the disorders/diseases and discovering why they happen, what causes them, and how to reverse/prevent it.

Embryonic stem cells' productive use in medicine is comparable to instellar travel. Hypothetically, it may be possible within our limited understanding of the science involved, but we're not sure how to get from the point A that we're at, to the point Z that would make it possible. Theoretically, it may be accurate, but that doesn't make it realistic or possible within our limited understanding.

So, go ahead, listen to the journalists, listen to the hype. Personally, I will continue listening to the scientists.

And, in the meantime, I will continue advocating for the rights and abilities of individuals with disabilities as I have been doing for several years.

frstlymil, you have created for yourself a stereotypical opponent which is not the least bit accurate in my case. We disagree, obviously, but our motivations are not so different. However, your concern is primarily with cure; my concern is primarily with dignity, quality of life, and equal opportunity. I wish your sister the best of luck, and the best of love, I truly do. I know, from personal experience, that repeated trips to doctors who tell you, after all the tests, all the exhaustion, all the rigorous hoops you've had to jump through, "We don't know." But, I also know, whether the doctors do or do not know the details of your sister's health condition(s), whether they do or do not know how to help her, whether there will be a "cure" within her lifetime, that she is a unique and precious human being who, despite whatever health situation(s) she has, is still a human being with a mind, a heart and a soul: all of which need attention and nourishment. And I hope you and everyone around you never forget that while you battle for her "cure" -- try to remember her, too.

October 27, 2006 at 12:00 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

JR, thanks for the link! I have wondering where that came from for the past couple of years... I got the song as a Kazaa download way back when... didn't know it had a video too! Wheeee! I will pirate this info and put it on my blog!

October 27, 2006 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Gonzo said...

Stephanie,

Patients treated with experimental procedures involving stem cells MUST sign detailed legal documents confirming that they know there are risks. This fact makes your advocacy for them a moot point.

You said:

Embryonic stem cells' productive use in medicine is comparable to interstellar travel. Hypothetically, it may be possible within our limited understanding of the science involved, but we're not sure how to get from the point A that we're at, to the point Z that would make it possible.

So, we should settle for not knowing? Do you realize how absurd that argument is?

As I said, patients give informed consent. Why? Because faced with the prospect of living with a disease or injury that is making their lives miserable, it is worth it to them to risk a new flavor of misery if: 1.) There's a chance something might work; 2.) There's a chance that something could be learned that will help others in the future.

I credit you for the studying of the subject that you have done, and I'm sorry if I'm off base in what I'm about to say, but your statement, "magical key embedded in the undeveloped bodies of frozen babies", it seems to me, reveals your true agenda here.

The claim that a blastocyst is a "frozen baby" is hyperbole that detracts from any substantive argument you might make. The question is: Are your claims to be simply advocating for patients genuine, which, I repeat is totally moot given informed consent, or have you created an elaborate smoke screen for your actual agenda, that of protecting "frozen babies"?

A blastocyst is not a baby, and if donated, again, VIA INFORMED CONSENT, would serve humanity best by helping us discover treatments that WILL help the people you care so much about.

I will HAPPILY eat my words and beg for your forgiveness if I've misinterpreted you. But, I doubt you'll admit it if I'm right anyway.

October 27, 2006 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Snave,

"I just think science should be supported by the government, not suppressed if it doesn't meet the president's spiritual conditions."

I agree completely with that, and must add that President Bush has supported stem cell research in general, and embryonic stem cell research specifically. I'm not a big Bush fan -- for many reasons -- but he does deserve credit for that.

While I choose to use my own faith to assist in making my decisions, the decisions that are made are my own -- my faith does not dictate them, merely assists.

Nor is my objection to embryonic stem cell research due to religion. I merely see it as "bad science," i.e. science that does not involve the use of the scientific method to formulate ideas. Embryonic stem cells is highly touted for political reasons, not scientific ones; and as I believe politics shouldn't dictate art, so do I believe that politics shouldn't dictate science, so do I believe that politics shouldn't dictate faith. Politics, art, science and faith are each important disciplines, but neither should dictate wholly the concentration of the other; though none are completely mutually exclusive either. Imagine daVinci's artistry without his intense study in the sciences for an indicator of what I mean.

Howard,

"Steph, would you rather that folks with unpleasant diseases go back to being cloistered away in asylums so that you don't have to see the unpleasantness?"

Try reading my statements before you ask ridiculous questions, please. To quote myself:

"Now, I'm not saying I would attack MJF for doing this. Understanding the devestation of Parkinson's is difficult if all you ever see is the "good" days, when the meds are working or when they're available at all.
...
Limbaugh's comments were uncouth, which is typical, but that doesn't mean they weren't essentially true."

I do not agree with Limbaugh. I'm familiar with his stances on individuals with disabilities and they disgust me. For clarification, not only do I have children who "ride the little bus to school," quite literally, but I invest signficant portions of my time to advocating for people with disabilities. I'm married to a man who has a disability. My children have a disability. And, I'm active on behalf of individuals with disabilities. Both the typical Democrat and the typical Republican stance on individuals with disabilities is very, very disappointing. If I have my way, all those damned institutions will be torn down and burned within my life-time; and we'll actually invest in the future of our country by giving everyone the opportunity to contribute to society. For a brief look, go here. The videos are each about seven minutes long, and are definitely worth the time of anyone who doesn't understand the devestating effects institutions have on human dignity.

Secondly, I'm familiar with the effects of Parkinson's disease. I've seen actual people with and without medication, and both have jerky movements. It's part of the disorder. Yes, there are varying degrees; yes, some people are immobilized by the disease itself; however, there are varying degrees and MJF has not experienced the degenerative effects to its fullest extent. Hopefully, the doctors find a way to relieve or hold it back so he never does, but that's doubtful.

"...and I'm just so annoyed by folks like Stephanie, who, while they might have done a lot of reading on the subject, still jump to judge others."

Then I highly recommend you not do it. I have not, nor would be inclined, to judge MJF. I do not support his politics. I disagree with his position on embryonic stem cell research. However, I DO support his desire to educate people on Parkinson's disease 100%. I'm GLAD he's showing people what Parkinson's disease is like. I'm 100% supportive of him making his condition known and visible. Whether I disagree with his politics or not, we need more people like him. We need more people who do not cloister themselves up when they find out that they are deteriorating.

So, I highly suggest you not judge me, when you don't know. Don't put words, or concepts into my mouth which do not exist on their own. I did not judge MJF. I merely quoted him on his tactics. I do not disagree with his tactics in the least. I use them myself to inform people of autism (though medication isn't an issue, since my children aren't on medication). I'm 100% honest about what they do, both wonderful and horrible, and don't make like of either side of it. And I applaud MJF for taking his condition into the mainstream and making people aware of it.

You've determined what my position is all on your own, too bad you didn't bother to discover what it was first.

October 27, 2006 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Sonja said...

Ugh. If only stem cells could prevent the torrent of vomit threatening to exit my mouth everytime I see or hear anything about this windbag.

October 27, 2006 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Howard,

"So, we should settle for not knowing? Do you realize how absurd that argument is?"

I didn't say anything of the sort. However, making it a hyped-up political issue now when the research is preliminary, or should be, is inappropriate. I believe it's ill-advised to promise cures when they do not even know if their theories are sound. Most of them haven't been, as you can find out for yourself by borrowing some medical and scientific journals from a good doctor (which is what I did), but it's the few that have that the journalists repeatedly quote. The research should be done, but the goal of the research should be to learn what it is that they're dealing with before they test it on living human beings.

"As I said, patients give informed consent."

That really depends on the patient. Some patients do not give informed consent, or consent of any kind. Some patients of children. Children are exposed to experimental medical treatments regularly, without their consent. Yet, they are the ones who have to live with the consequences. Also, patients do not always understand the information with which they are provided, and so while they may have been informed, that doesn't mean they are capable of making a decision on the basis of that information. You see, doctors and medical professionals have their own agendas, too. One, in particular, informed me that the only reasonable course of action was to institutionalize my son; had I listened to him would that have meant that I'd made an informed decision? I think not. Especially considering the child in question is now in second grade in an inclusive classroom and is keeping up with his peers. Doctors aren't gods, and if they don't have the pertinent information, then they are obviously incapable of providing it to their patients, but that doesn't prevent them from claiming to know what they're talking about.

And, just to clarify myself before y'all jump to more conclusions, I'm not against doctors in general. Just certain specific ones who "inform" their patients that their own opinions are all that's valid, irregardless of the evidence.

Thus, my claims are only "totally moot" if you have never gone through the mind-numbing experience of having a doctor tell you for several hours straight what to think. An experience frystmil's parents may know a little more about.

"The claim that a blastocyst is a "frozen baby" is hyperbole that detracts from any substantive argument you might make."

Had the scientists not interferred with the process, naturally blastocysts become babies. Thus, they are inherently babies, or potential babies if you'd prefer, that have been "frozen." The claim is not hyperbole; merely a difference of opinion of the nature of human life.

"Are your claims to be simply advocating for patients genuine, which, I repeat is totally moot given informed consent, or have you created an elaborate smoke screen for your actual agenda, that of protecting "frozen babies"?"

Disability rights is not an agenda, it's a way of living for me, because it has to be in a family of four "disabled" individuals. The only smoke screens are the ones you continue to put up by your claims that your opinions are the only ones that are valid. I do not like or advocate for abortion. I am outraged that doctors invest significant amounts of their time and research dollars on learning how to identify children with disabilities in utero to "save" these children the "suffering" of drawing their first breath. I do not like or advocate for fertility programs that produce frozen embryos, nor do I advocate against them (which isn't true of abortion), because the science involved, as well as the results produced are both scientifically and humanly valuable. Would the world be a better place if these desperate and wealthy parents (the only ones who'd go to such lengths) would adopt otherwise homeless children? Sure, but I do understand the desire to procreate, and though I've never experienced the frustration of not being able to procreate naturally, I can sympathize with their frustration.

However, embryonic stem cell research is a different matter entirely. The science is sketchy at best. The scientists should have been allowed to quietly research this project as they quietly research most projects. However, that's not what happened. The science of it has been all but blotted out by the politics. Politicians make promises of cures. Journalists make promises of cures. And the vast majority of the scientists who are involved are sitting quietly in their offices writing papers that are generally read only by other scientists telling the truth of the research, which is that they are very curious, they think they may be on to something, but it's decades from fruition; which is how science that is handled scientifically works. Now, unless there's a happy accident like that which "discovered" antibiotics for us, it will be decades, plural, before anything useful comes from this. Not fifteen years. Not five years. Certainly not the "soon" politicians and journalists like to talk about. Yet, the scientists are now pressed to fulfill these ridiculous, unrealistic promises to keep their funding -- and we're all going to reap the horrible results, both by paying for it, and by watching our family, our friends, our neighbors, or, at best, perfect strangers give their "informed consent" to their own worsened misery.

Science, true science following the scientific method, cannot be rushed. You don't get results that way, aside from the occassional happy accident. Yet, the Democrats will continue to try to rush it, because they've made it a political issue. If we get results from this at all, chances are it will not be in this country, or in any country where it's become a hot-button issue, because the experiments are already tainted by promises the scientists have no idea if they can fulfill. It'll be the scientists who've been left to work their science that will discover if and how embryonic stem cells can be used to benefit humanity.

October 27, 2006 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Stephanie, you might have a hard time convincing me that Bush has actually supported stem cell research... I thought he only gave the o.k. to a very limited number of cell lines? Could limiting the resources available to scientists in itself be considered "bad science"? It seems to me one could say he did support stem cell research, but only at the barest of minimums.

As for embryonic stem cell research being "bad science", or as to scientists not using the "scientific method" re. that cell research, by "scientific method" I mean doing the scientific research in a way that minimizes the scientists' bias on outcomes of experiments. When properly applied, the use of the scientific method involves the observation of a phenomena or a group of phenomena, the formulation of a hypothesis to explain the phenomena, the use of said hypothesis to explain other phenomena or to quantitatively predict the results of new observations, and performance of tests of such predictions through experiments to see whether or not the hypothesis bears out. Such tests and experiments should be performed by several independent experimenters. I will have to look into embryonic stem cell research further in order to determine for myself whether or not I believe "bad science" is being promoted, or whether or not the scientific method is being misused. My gut tells me not enough research has been done to reach concrete conclusions, but I will take a look.

In regard to the scientific method, I am thinking that embryonic stem cells have been observed to have effects that change that into which they are placed. It is possible these are positive or negative effects. Scientists will come up with possible reasons why embryonic stem cells might be of benefit or why they might be harmful, and they will test their hypotheses through tests and experiments. Obviously, some of this testing would have to take place on humans. I have no doubt there would be people willing to try, and willing to deal with results that might be good, or not so good. I think it could be considered "bad science" to not examine the potential positive effects of stem cell research to the fullest. For example, if embryonic cells caused non-beneficial extra growth in 15% of patients, that is no reason to end the research there, as it was apparently the result of one study. Scientists should want to (and be allowed to) pursue the questions of "why" this happened in this particular study, and to do further tests and experiments to determine the cause, and to find possible ways to keep it from happening.

The only slippery slope I really see re. this issue and science in general is the dissing of science by fundamentalist religious folks because they don't like science promoting a non-creationist view. As the president is one of this group of people, he does not value science or the intellectual curiosity necessary for scientific advances. He has a lot of allies in high places, and he has friends who control large fundamentalist religious movements. He consorts with Tim LaHaye and James Dobson, for example... they advise him.

The issue of embryonic stem cell research is not political in and of itself. It has become political because one party tends to have leaders who would like to prevent the research, and the other party wants to promote such research in order to see if the use of embryonic cells really does have some benefit. As long as scientific methods are used correctly in an effort to reach conclusive evidence, I am fine with it, even if it involves willing human subjects.

A couple of commenters here sound about as paranoid re. embryonic stem cell research as I tend to sound about fundamentalist Christians and reconstructivists having undue influence in the Bush administration. I think THOSE folks are downright Frankensteinian, to use Jane Lake's term. Sure, we need to hold science in check, but we also need to keep the suppression of science in check. We live in a great world. I don't like seeing the rest of the world passing us by in scientific research because our administration is afraid to let scientists do their work. I want to see our country be part of the world when it comes to science, to environmental concerns, to banning weapons in outer space, to having an actual national health care system, and to simply getting along with other countries...! I am sure such changes will come eventually, if not soon (possibly starting November 7), that will allow our great country to achieve its maximum potential in many more areas than it is currently allowed to do.

October 27, 2006 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

It isn't just the Democrats that have made embryonic stem cell research a political football. What the Dems have done is to bring to light that the suppression of potentially beneficial science is the problem, and if that makes embryonic stem cells into something political, so be it. I believe the issue here is not so much the attitudes of the Democrats as it has been the attitudes of the opposition, which has created a climate in which science and intellectual curiosity have been de-emphasized. The left is simply calling attention to this, as they should. "Progress" means different things to different people. To me, it means not dissing science, but rather promoting it.

Another "slippery slope" I forgot to mention in my last comment is that when administrations pay scientists to provide the data they want for suiting their political purposes, it denigrates science, possibly on purpose in the case of the Bush administration. We have seen this with NASA's research on climate change. The administration has used bad science, and promoted it, in order to plant seeds of doubt in the public re. climate change... and once those seeds of doubt are there, it probably wouldn't make much difference in the public mind if something like 95% of scientists agreed that global warming was real. The more doubt there is about a certain scientific position, the less likely the public will be to pay attention to science that supports that position.

My point is, why shouldn't we distrust scientific results such as those the administration has been coming up with to refute NASA's and other scientists, and the majority of the scientific community? THAT is a political thing, AND a slippery slope. It could be a fallacy of logic for one to assume that because the administration doesn't like the idea of global warming and promotes bad science to support their view... then because they don't like the idea of embryonic stem cell research they might also promote bad science to support their view? Then again, it might not be that big a stretch to assume such a thing. That's why I think independent scientific research is needed, and a lot of it, in a lot of areas.

I want to know who is funding what research, how the results were reported and by whom, and whether or not certain results may be beneficial to certain politicians or political groups. I think in some cases, like the issue of global warming and possibly the issue of embryonic stem cell research, such information may be as revealing as the results of the research itself.

October 28, 2006 at 12:07 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Snave,

"...you might have a hard time convincing me that Bush has actually supported stem cell research..."

As I understand it, Pres. Clinton had the opportunity, but refused to give a yea or nay on funding embryonic stem cell research; and Bush gave a yea, but a limited one. In that sense, Bush was more "for" embryonic stem cell research then Clinton was when he had the chance.

"The issue of embryonic stem cell research is not political in and of itself."

I agree with you completely there. While I hold the opinion that science should not be practiced in an ethical vaccuum (look at the Nazi "scientific" experiments for an example of that), I also recognize that science is not politicized of its own accord. Sometimes the people who politicize a scientific issue are the scientists, sometimes it become politicized from the outside. I don't know who politicized this issue first. I've read conflicting accounts on how this all blew up in the first place.

"It has become political because one party tends to have leaders who would like to prevent the research, and the other party wants to promote such research in order to see if the use of embryonic cells really does have some benefit."

Again, I'm not very informed in the "who started it" arena, because all the accounts I've read are seriously biased, and because I wasn't interested when it all started coming out; but, within the limited information I've been able to glean from the various accounts the Democrats didn't have a position until the Republicans (led by Bush) determined that their position was to limit the research. It's a false statement to say the majority of Republicans want to prevent the research, they are simply against creating new strains for research using federal money. There's a big difference between the two.

"As long as scientific methods are used correctly in an effort to reach conclusive evidence, I am fine with it, even if it involves willing human subjects."

As am I. However, I would assert that following scientific methods should include significant amounts of animal testing, before the skip straight to humans. It's that step that is being skipped, due to the rush towards progress and results. And it's that missing step that put the people with Parkinson's at considerable personal risk. And, I would also assert that children do not make for "willing" subjects, because it's the parents not the children who are willing.

"Scientists should want to (and be allowed to) pursue the questions of "why" this happened in this particular study, and to do further tests and experiments to determine the cause, and to find possible ways to keep it from happening."

I agree with that, with built in limitations. Ethics should not be breached for curiousities sake alone. Again, I'll point you to the Nazi experiments on that one. Which is not and accusation of the scientists here, more to assert that scientists are as human as the rest of us, and are just as capable of doing unconscionable things, which is where ethical oversight should come into play.

"The only slippery slope I really see re. this issue and science in general is the dissing of science by fundamentalist religious folks because they don't like science promoting a non-creationist view."

I must disagree. Anything in a vaccuum is dangerous. Science can be as dangerous as anything else is, in an ethical vaccuum (the use of ethical and not moral is wholly intentional, as morality differs dramatically, but ethics are much more similar, i.e. the morality of a Zen Buddhist and a Christian are often different, but the ethics are very similar).

I readily admit that "fundamentalist religious folks" want to have control over science, what is and is not allowed. There are also scientists who are bent on controlling religion by controlling people's access to religion. There are even scientists who advocate "advancing" humanity by anhiliating religion. Either way is wrong, because either way interfers with people's right to choose their own beliefs.

"Sure, we need to hold science in check, but we also need to keep the suppression of science in check."

That's something I agree with 100%. In an ideal world, which I bet we can both agree we do not have, then scientists would all be trustworthy individuals with no need of oversight -- and atomic and nuclear energy would have been thought up, without ever the corresponding bombs being dreamed of -- and politicians wouldn't need to be watched by the people to ensure the people's welfare was actually being considered. Unfortunately, whether it sounds paranoid or not, we all have to be watchful.

"I want to see our country be part of the world when it comes to science, to environmental concerns, to banning weapons in outer space, to having an actual national health care system, and to simply getting along with other countries...!"

Again, I agree. But, I also know our problems in some of these areas, if not most of them, are not the faults of Bush & Co. These problems predate Bush's control and Democrats have done a sloppy job of it, too.

"...that will allow our great country to achieve its maximum potential in many more areas than it is currently allowed to do."

I wish I could believe that would happen soon, but I don't think it will happen until the apathetic American citizenry wakes up and takes back control. I hope we do change to blue come Nov. 7. And I hope people are still paying attention enough to watch the Dems muck up the country just badly, though differently, as the Reps have. Then, perhaps, we'll finally get some leaders who are more concerned about the country and all it's citizens instead of their own political party and their benefactors. If you expect the Dems to be somehow different in this, then I suspect you'll be sadly mistaken.

"It isn't just the Democrats that have made embryonic stem cell research a political football."

Of course not. For it to be a "football," then both sides have to be kicking it around. As they are clearly doing.

"What the Dems have done is to bring to light that the suppression of potentially beneficial science is the problem..."

Well, that's an idyllic interpretation. They've made themselves the "champion" of people with incurable diseases and disorders, by offering the false hope that the cure is just around the corner if only the Republicans will stop getting in the way. That's not the reality of the situation, but it is what many laypeople believe of it due to the way Democrats and journalists have handled it.

"...and if that makes embryonic stem cells into something political, so be it."

I disagree. As soon as you turn up the pressure to get results, you get mistakes. More mistakes than if the scientists were allowed to take their time and do it right.

"I believe the issue here is not so much the attitudes of the Democrats as it has been the attitudes of the opposition, which has created a climate in which science and intellectual curiosity have been de-emphasized."

You've made that perfectly clear. However, the Democrats have not emphasized science and intellectual curiosity; they've emphasized results, promising results that may or may not be possible. They've de-emphasized the reality of the scientific process, which takes a long time and a lot of research. In a recent radio ad, one of my state Dems was talking about how a local medical research facility was on the "brink" of discovering a cure, because he voted for their funding. If that isn't spin, then I don't know what is.

""Progress" means different things to different people. To me, it means not dissing science, but rather promoting it."

In an idyllic world, it would be that simple. However, right now I'm just hoping -- vainly, I know -- that they'll just start being honest about it.

The progress I'm most interested in is the progress of people being treated equally, as individuals, irregardless of their skill levels. So, we each have our idyllic world. I'm more concerned about human beings than I am about science, and that, frankly, is not something that's ever going to change. I see science as useful because it helps people. Outside of that, it's only useful as a way to entertain scientists, imo. Then again, I'm more of an artist than a scientist.

"...when administrations pay scientists to provide the data they want for suiting their political purposes, it denigrates science..."

Unfortunately, that happens a lot. That's generally how scientists earn the grant money to do the projects they really want to do. That's the unfortunate reality of capitalism, and it's really big with pharmaceutical companies -- which is in and of itself scary.

"...it probably wouldn't make much difference in the public mind if something like 95% of scientists agreed that global warming was real."

Sorry, this is not something I'm familiar with. I don't remember hearing anything about a NASA project. However, while I admit that global warming is happening (kind of a "duh" at this point), I'm still waiting for scientists to be able to explain how it's our fault (fossil fuels), yet has happened several times before (Leif Erikson's otherwise impossible voyage, just for one instance). Whether this is the "climate change" you're referencing or not, I don't know. But, I'm not going to accept that human beings are causing it -- which sounds like the utmost of arrogance to me -- until they come up with a solid reason it's different from the dozen of other times the climate has flucuated considerably.

"That's why I think independent scientific research is needed, and a lot of it, in a lot of areas."

I agree, which is why I don't think federal funding of embryonic stem cell research should be that big of a deterent. If it was valid science that had all the potential the politicians claim, private organizations would be pouring money into it. But, of the two, adult stem cell research is getting more private funds.

"I want to know who is funding what research, how the results were reported and by whom, and whether or not certain results may be beneficial to certain politicians or political groups."

You mean all of it? All the research? Well, that's ambitious. I've done some digging. Mostly into autism research, because, well, that's my personal pet issue, and it's like pulling teeth to get anything verifiable. I got lucky with some stem cell comparisons in a few business magazines, and that was revealing. The results were comparable across three different magazines, so I'm assuming it's reliable (in favor of adult stem cells when comparing private funds, if you're curious; embryonic stem cells get more federal funding, though, ironically enough).

"I think in some cases, like the issue of global warming and possibly the issue of embryonic stem cell research, such information may be as revealing as the results of the research itself."

I agree with you completely there. Have you ever read what Michael Cricton wrote about global warming. It makes for some intriguing reading and covers some of that very issue.

October 28, 2006 at 5:08 PM  
Blogger 1138 said...

Stephanie said ... I merely see it as "bad science,"

Yes and you cite bad science to back your claims.
Injection of adult stem cells the same crude way provide disastrous results as well.

You arguments are based entirely on your "faith" and not on facts, just on the distorted facts that you've chosen (or allowed others to chose for you) that support that "faith" decision.

As for your and Limbaugh's medical claims concerning Mr. Fox's appearance it has become known to everyone that pays attention that the symptoms Mr. Fox exhibited are a result of medication (and not an excess even) of being ON MEDICATION, not off of it like the rigid appearance of the typical public appearances of Muhammad Ali.

The massive ignorance that has been touted by supporters of Limbaugh in defense of the "Big Fat Idiot" puts all of you a dim, not too credible light.

By the way Tom, there is a cure for Mr. Limbaugh's problem but it isn't stem cells, it's journalistic and corporate integrity, we've seen applied to Dan Rather, but it never seems to get applied to the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity and Coulter.

October 29, 2006 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

1138,

And, of course, it's all my fault that the scientists/medical professional in questions are either desperate or idiots? Yeah, it was my idea to inject foreign material into someone's brain? Uhn-huh. Yes, I call bad science bad science, and I site the descriptions of embryonic stem cell research that are available; if they happen to be one and the same thing, conclusions are drawn and those conclusions are not an example of a logical fallacy, because I'm not in control of the research or the experiments the, um, scientists are.

October 30, 2006 at 7:02 AM  
Blogger Gonzo said...

Stephanie,

The phrase "bad science" is the main talking point of religious fundamentalists who have to ignore massive amounts of scientific research conducted over centuries in order to defend their faith-based positions on everything from evolution and abortion to stem cell research and global warming.

You walked right into it using that phrase, leaving those of us who have had to defend real science from ridiculousness like Intelligent Design, protecting our government from religious fanatics who would rather we lived in a theocracy, and fighting for a woman's right to choose, with no choice but to stick with the conclusion about what your real agenda is.

We live in a truly scary time when one party so thoroughly controls the, so called, most powerful country on the planet, preserving their power with one simple, two-part strategy:

1. Deny/Lie

2. Blame/Attack

The truth has been the primary casualty, thousands of lives have been lost, thousands more are endangered by war mongering, environmental destruction/indifference, and obstruction of scientific research.

You said farther back in this discussion that patients don't always give informed consent to be treated with experimental techniques, and I meant to ask earlier for some proof of that.

I've not done a thorough study, but a brief Google seemed to surround isolated incidents that stand our because they are the exception rather than the rule. You certainly don't see anyone advocating for abolishing the laws requiring informed consent.

October 30, 2006 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger Gonzo said...

Oh, and Steph, it's crap like this:

GOP Push-Poll

...that erodes credibility in your position.

See, it's not your fault! ;-)

October 30, 2006 at 4:52 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Howard,

That might be true if my position had anything to do with the GOP, but it does not. I don't care, at least not in a positive way, about the GOP. To me, the GOP is simply the lesser of two evils, and thus still evil. I'm an anti-incumbent voter, as a political stance. I want a viable third party that cares more about America than partisanship. Nothing more, nothing less. Dems/Reps be damned.

So, sorry, but I don't fit into your neat little stereotype.

October 30, 2006 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Oh, and the first time I ever heard "bad science" used in any matter political, was when people started arguing against Intelligent Design. Religious fundamentalists, as a whole, tend to consider science itself to be bad, and are usually unwilling or unable to differentiate between good or bad science. Thus, your argument sounds pretty ridiculous. It may be true, but it's still ridiculous.

How is someone who doesn't understand the scientific process supposed to distinguish between good and bad science?

October 30, 2006 at 8:51 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Stephanie,

Clinton is not to blame for everything that has gone wrong in the last almost-six years. He has not been the POTUS for the last almost-six years. It's time to get over Clinton being the bogeyman when it comes to all of America's present-day problems. Sure, he probably could have done things differently that might have made things better for his successor and for America after his terms in office, but I happen to someone who doesn't think he was such a horrible president, and someone who thinks Bush ranks with the worst our country has ever endured.

I'm definitely fine with testing animals first. I believe humans should eventually be tested also.

I'm not against religion, except when it comes to its interefence with government and science in our country. I don't want to annihilate religion. I'm more into live and let live, and helping others live as well as they can. They can help me by not using religious arguments to try and sway my opinion.

Maybe the Democrats do emphasize results. I am not a Democrat. I am a Green. There is a difference, like in how much money goes into the Green party... heh... What I would personally emphasize is using the scientific method, creating a climate in which people want to use it, and in which it is used correctly, not to prove things, but to disprove things. I think I have made that clear.

I couldn't finish the Michael Crichton book. I got about 3/4 of the way through it. The hero was the character who didn't think global warming was real, the flawed character was the guy who believed it was true, and the heroine went for the macho non-believer. Crichton brought up some interesting points, but given that most of what he was pointing out goes against what the other 90% or more of what scientists say about the issue, I think his book might just as well have been on the shelves next to "Treason", "Slander", "Who's Looking Out For You", "See, I Told You So", etc.

I work with quite a few autistic and Asperger's kids. What have you found in your research? I would like to find out more about theories about why it seems like so many kids are getting the "A" label these days. Mercury? Vaccinations? I'm not sure but some of those might be more than conspiracy theories. Anyway, I hope scientists will be allowed to do the research they need to do in order to find out what causes autism and whether or not there are ways it can be helped, prevented, or even cured.

October 30, 2006 at 10:50 PM  
Blogger Gonzo said...

Steph, more reason why we can't just get all warm and fuzzy and trust you:

FACT CHECK: Snow’s False and Misleading History of Stem Cell Research

By opposing stem cell research, Steph, you are simply in very bad company, namely, your allies are a gang of lying criminals, who came to power in what no one seems to be willing to call it: a coup d’état.

October 31, 2006 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Gonzo said...

P.S. Steph, I hear you saying that your position doesn't have anything to do with the GOP, and now I hear you saying that you believe scientists were the originators of the "bad science" argument (though a quick Google suggests this the latter is a chicken or egg argument that neither of us can win.).

In re-reading over this discussion, I am prepared to narrow down our disagreement to two points:

1. blastocysts vs. babies
2. informed consent

1. I don't believe blastocysts are babies and; 2. I don't believe that informed consent is being ignored wholesale.

Let me also point out that I am no where near making the point that science is infallible, that western medicine is infallible, I prefer natural medicine myself and I'm EXTREMELY critical of the pharmaceutical industry on the whole.

The latter, brings up a KEY point not yet addressed here, as far as I can tell:

One of the most critical reasons why government funding of research is SO important, is because, otherwise, most of the research is being done by the private sector, by entities who have making a profit as their bottom line goal. All you have to do is read Dr. Peter Breggin's work ("Toxic Psychiatry", "Talking Back to Prozac", etc.), for reasons not to trust research done by the pharmaceutical companies.

So, let's add this to the list:

1. blastocysts vs. babies
2. informed consent
3. public versus private research

Where do you stand on these three?

October 31, 2006 at 11:37 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

snave,

"Clinton is not to blame for everything that has gone wrong in the last almost-six years."

Nor did I say he was. He is, however, the first president who had the opportunity to fund embryonic stem cell research and he passed on the opportunity. Bush did fund the research, but limited it. Not all, or even most, Republicans are against stem cell research completely. And not all Dems are for it at all.

"I couldn't finish the Michael Crichton book. I got about 3/4 of the way through it."

I wasn't talking about his book. I don't think I've ever read any of his books, though I could be wrong on that. I read a lot of books. But, I was talking about his paper on the political climate involved in the first models of global warming. I've changed computers since then, so I don't have it bookmarked any more, but I'll find the link if you want.

"I am a Green."

I've toyed with the Green party, but it's rare that they actually make candidates available that I'm eligible to vote for, so it becomes kind of moot. Which is kind of strange since I do believe the Green party started in Wisconsin. Like I said, I'm really hoping we can get a viable third party in the near future, but chances are it will not be the Green party.

"...but given that most of what he was pointing out goes against what the other 90% or more of what scientists say about the issue..."

He covers why that is in his paper. Personally, I don't cater much to one side or the other. I consider both unproven theories, and have a persistent curiosity as to why the past climatic changes are often not included in contemporary models of global warming. I don't think enough unbiased research has been done yet. And, I don't think most laypeople, including myself, can grasp the complexities of an entire planetary ecosystem to have a really, truly informed opinion. There's a few, but it gets to the point where to know enough to really grasp the concept you cease to be a layperson, whether you have the paper credentials or not. My father-in-law is like that, and has started an environmental organization that teaches environmental custodianship from a Biblical perspective (being an Episcopalian minister). His ability to see the scope of the world-wide ecology is very impressive.

"What have you found in your research?"

Unfortunately, what I've found is that what we don't know could fill a set of encyclopedias and then some. It's rather discouraging.

"I would like to find out more about theories about why it seems like so many kids are getting the "A" label these days."

Well, part of the reason the label is used more frequently is because it has been expanded. Autism used to be reserved strictly for "Rainman" type autistics. That is no longer the case, thus there are more people. Also, access to testing and diagnostic facilities has greatly improved. A lot of the hype about there being more is simply just hype. It's a matter of statistics and including more of the scope than anything else. At least, as far as I can tell.

As for the cause, I don't know and neither does anyone else. There's theories, of course. Mine is that it is genetic. Both my husband and I took the Autism Quotient test released by Cambridge's Autism research facility. I scored a 31, he got 34. 16.4 is the average for "normal" people and 32 or higher was the typical score for people with a diagnosis. Add that to the fact that I have two, most likely three, children on the spectrum, and genetics seems to be a very likely contributing factor. Or, perhaps it's genetics triggered by environment. Again, nobody's sure.

"I hope scientists will be allowed to do the research they need to do in order to find out what causes autism..."

Currently they are. There's a lot of genetic testing going on and the pool of people involved gets bigger all the time, from what I hear.

"...and whether or not there are ways it can be helped, prevented, or even cured."

Currently the "cure" in mind seems to be the same "cure" that's being used for Down's Syndrome, and that worries the hell out of me. Right now, my energies are mostly on neurodiversity and the hope to give children and adults with autism the tools and information they need to be the best autistic individuals they can be. That my husband and I have so many of the autistic traits, and learned how to cope with them (mostly) on our own gives me hope that even individuals who are "severely autistic," i.e. are severely incompacitated by the way they perceive their environment, can become fully functioning if we can just figure out how. I, personally, doubt that will come in the form of a cure, because we understand so little how the normal brain works and even less about how abnormal brains work. In time, perhaps, but coping mechanisms are the best bet for my children within their lifetimes. And if autism is just a neurological difference that is exasperated by unfriendly surroundings, something claimed by autistic adults, then perhaps a cure would not even be ethical. Society may reach the point that "curing" autism seems as outrageous an "politically incorrect" as "curing" dark pigmentations of the skin.

Again, I don't know. My research is very preliminary. The idea is only as old as 1998, as far as I can trace it. However, I don't want to focus my energies on a cure that may turn out to be unnecessary and unethical.

My biggest fear is that if autism is merely a neurological difference that needs to be treated as any other viable differences, i.e. with respect, appreciation and accomodation, and the neurodiversity movement succeeds in bringing that about, that it will in turn color the disability movement in general, and hurt the funding for research of such disorders/diseases as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and other ailments that are degenerative and physically debilitating. The notion of moving away from cure towards acceptance is all well and good for something that is a difference that can be coped with, but there are certainly disorders which are much more destructive and in need of a cure for. Unlike many of the other disorders, autism (under normal circumstances) doesn't involve a shorten-life span or physical causes of pain.

It's a fine, fine line.

As for helping autism, the best thing I've found for my children is play therapy mixed with sensory regulation, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. Play therapy is an intensive in-home therapy that is less rigid and more people friendly than ABA, but uses many of the same tactics. No unnatural adversives is a big difference, however, and one that's very important to me. Another big difference is the amount of table time versus active time, and the general atmosphere of teaching the children how to better cope with their surroundings and interpersonal interactions, versus the typical ABA emphasis on "acting" normal.

November 1, 2006 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Howard,

First, Republicans are not my allies. I do not trust Republicans any more than I trust Democrats. They are both more concerned with their party's interests, than the interests of this nation. Second, are you claiming that Democrats do not lie, or that the party does not consist of criminals?

"...and I'm EXTREMELY critical of the pharmaceutical industry on the whole."

Well, that is at least one thing we can agree on. When it comes to science being manipulated by the funders, the pharmaceutical company is a huge perpetrator.

"One of the most critical reasons why government funding of research is SO important, is because, otherwise, most of the research is being done by the private sector, by entities who have making a profit as their bottom line goal."

Agreed. However, I don't think you honestly believe the government is unbiased when it comes to research; if you do, I have to say I over-estimated your intelligence/awareness. The government, no matter who runs it, is still made up of people and all people have biases that get in the way of their decisions.

"Where do you stand on these three?:

"1. blastocysts vs. babies"

Dictionary definition: The modified blastula that is characteristic of placental mammals. Also called blastodermic vesicle. Or, this one from Princeton University says, "early stage of an embryo produced by cleavage of an ovum; a liquid-filled sphere whose wall is composed of a single layer of cells; during this stage (about eight days after fertilization) implantation in the wall of the uterus occurs"

Blastocysts are proto-embryos. In a natural setting, i.e. the womb, a blastocyst develops after fertilization, but prior to implantation -- the part where the fertilized egg settles into the uterean wall. In an artificial setting, i.e. medical laboratory, the blastocyst develops after fertilization of an extracted egg, and must be viable before it can be implanted into a mother's womb, because the risks of not producing a pregnancy, or of producing too many fetuses for the mother to safely carry are greater if they don't.

The scientific research that made embryonic stem cell research possible was done so couples who were infertile could have biological children of their own. A blastocyst, in a natural setting, is on its way to becoming an embryo, which is on its way to becoming a fetus, which is on its way to becoming a baby. And, all along, it is, genetically speaking, a human being. A blastocyst, in a scietific setting, is stagnant, because it cannot form into anything without the direct manipulation of the scientists, because it is outside its "natural habitat," so to speak. Yet, genetically, it's still a human being until they kill it.

From an emotional standpoint, a woman rarely knows (though it's possible) whether she's pregnant when the human being is still in blastocyst form, and thus is less likely to mourn if the child is lost than further along in the pregnancy or if birth has already occurred. However, a mother who is trying to get pregnant through artificial means finds out that they transferred blastocysts didn't make it is going to mourn. So, that's more about hope and awareness than the form of the child.

As far as research goes, generally if the scientist cannot implant the blastocyst into the mother's womb, there's nothing left to be done. Without a womb the blastocyst cannot fully develop, at least not with the technology we have now. And, were the blastocyst to be developed into a full-grown baby, it would simply add to the enormous amount of "to be adopted" children that often never get adopted at all.

One could certainly argue against the ethics of creating a human being that has no hope of survival, or against creating "too many" when only a fraction of those created will be implanted; and there are those who do that. The ethics of it are shakey, and not-well formed by time, so it is an area where morality jumps into to fray...and then things get sticky. However, if the ethics of creating the blastocysts are sound, then the ethics of doing research on those blastocysts would also be sound. The ethics of creating blastocysts specifically for research, which is what would have to be done to get a large enough test sample to do most of the research they intend to do, would be a separate matter that again would be shakey. So, in lieu of a fully developed system of ethics, which can only happen in time, morality comes into play in dramatic fashion. Morality is a much more ambiguous, much more emotional, measurement and thus lines get drawn and people seem to think whoever is on the other side is wrong/evil/whatever.

So, in essence, my position on blastocyst vs. baby is that I don't know, neither do you, and neither do the scientists. Our understanding of human biology is too limited to make any definite distinctions. Only time, and research, can tell. In the meantime, I prefer to be on the side of caution.

"2. informed consent"

Informed consent is a tricky subject. Who is providing the information? Who is giving consent? Think back to those pesky pharmaceutical companies. They "inform" their test subjects all the time. However, there's no guarantee that the information is accurate, or even factual. Too many people who are supposed to be in charge of oversight turn a blind eye. A patient who is "informed" by a person of extreme bias is not really informed at all. A person who is not the patient who is informed or "informed" and gives consent is in fact risking another person's life and well-being, and their own motivations are sometimes questionable.

Most people, whether they are parents, siblings or just guardians, care more about their charges wellfare than anything else. But not all. That makes it difficult. Most scientists and medical professionals are more concerned with humane treatments and valid science than "discoveries," but not all. Again, that's problematic.

If the patient is informed, meaning that all the pertinent information (including the "I don't know"s) is provided in a consistent manner until the person understands enough to make the decision for themselves, then I have no problem with it. If reasonable efforts have been made to verify that the non-patient giving informed consent genuinely has the interests of the patient in mind and that person has truly been informed, then I don't have a problem with informed consent for experimental procedures. However, I do set the bar pretty high for informed consent, not because I don't want science to progress, but because I don't want people tricked or forced into procedures that may be detrimental to their personal well-being, which has happened.

As far as informed consent specifically for embryonic stem cell research, i.e. providing blastocysts...that's a delicate issue because the ethics of it have not yet been formed. However, because the ethics of it have not yet been formed, and because there's not that much else that can be done if the mother doesn't want the embryo implanted, I don't see the harm of giving them away...much like human organs are given away upon death. However, making them a saleable commodity is something I'm very much against.

"3. public versus private research"

Personally, I trust research that is done through grants. The source of the grants doesn't have as much importance as the nature of the grants. My ideal would be the scientist who has a "cool idea," asks for a grant to pursue this idea, gets it and keeps working on it until the "cool idea" reaches fruition. Unfortunately, grants are usually not given out that way. In a less ideal world, i.e. closer to the real one, I prefer grants that the person in charge of the money is not in charge of the research. Whether it's public or private, the closer the big wallet gets to decisions on the research, the more tainted the whole process is. I won't distrust something just because it was researched privately, or just because it was researched publicly. But, I am generally skeptical until the research has been independently verified.

As to all the questions, life is not so hard and fast that it has many either/or answers. Most of this world is made up of shades of gray.

November 1, 2006 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Stephanie,

"As for helping autism, the best thing I've found for my children is play therapy mixed with sensory regulation, speech therapy, and occupational therapy."

Yes!

I am a speech therapist, and I work closely with our school district's autism specialist and with my students' teachers. I think play therapy DOES work, regardless of what some parents who watch such an approach might think of it. I have had success in getting nonverbal kids to talk using that approach. I think that occupational therapy helps integrate the brain a bit better, helps these kids focus. My favorite students are the ones who are "on the spectrum". I certainly had some mild Asperger's tendencies when I was young (gazing at spinning objects, not knowing what would be insulting or not to say, not reading body language, and others) and I gradually learned how to deal with things until my teens. Some of the odd behaviors may have been more due to obsessive compulsive disorder, which is one definite diagnosis I have. I only discovered this six years ago, but I had been going around just about all my life knowing there was something not quite right... I'm 49 now, so that was 42-43 years of wondering if I was nuts or not! Medication has helped tremendously. My kids haven't displayed any ASD tendencies, but they DO display OCD tendencies...

Anyway, my hat's off to YOU, your husband and your family! Here's to you all finding the best ways for you and yours to make life the best!

November 1, 2006 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

snave,

"I am a speech therapist..."

I have to say some of the coolest people I've ever met have been speech therapists. They've done wonders for my boys.

"I think play therapy DOES work, regardless of what some parents who watch such an approach might think of it."

I'd have to say so. Just today I was telling one of my son's therapists that when he was diagnosed the doctor recommended institutionalization. She said, "But, they only do that for severe cases." I explained how my son was a severe case. She was literally slack jawed at that, because now he's verbal, keeping up with his class, and has friends. He's still autistic and those who know what to look for can tell, but he's come a long, long way from the non-verbal, tantrum-throwing, punching-and-hitting child who was called a "lost cause" by his doctor.

"I certainly had some mild Asperger's tendencies when I was young..."

Take the test. It could be interesting for you to know what you get.

"Some of the odd behaviors may have been more due to obsessive compulsive disorder, which is one definite diagnosis I have."

I have that diagnosis, too, but I'm not 100% convinced they're that far separate from each other. If the neurodiversity idea is accurate, then my guess is that they're not. I would also include ADD, ADHD, Manic-Depression (aka Bipolar Disorder) in amongst them as well. A lot of that seems to go hand in hand when it comes to manifestations of the genetic traits. But, again, there's no enough research to prove or disprove that. It's just my hunch right now.

"I'm 49 now, so that was 42-43 years of wondering if I was nuts or not!"

You've wondered longer than I've been alive (I'm 27), but I certainly understand. It wasn't until earlier this year that it finally dawned on me that brushing ones teeth doesn't normally hurt or that sitting in a chair normally isn't supposed to make you feel as if your legs are floating in the air. Those are two of my sensory quirks that I just assumed was normal, because that's how I always experienced it.

"Anyway, my hat's off to YOU, your husband and your family! Here's to you all finding the best ways for you and yours to make life the best!"

Thank you. And I wish you the best as well. Know that you are having a tremendous impact on the lives of some wonderful children!

November 1, 2006 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

I took the test, and got a 20, answering as I would when medicated. Unmedicated? It probably would have been in the 25-30 range, I'd guess. Thanks for the link!

November 2, 2006 at 7:22 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

You're welcome. Thank you for sharing your results.

November 2, 2006 at 4:44 PM  

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