Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Lure and Evil of False Hope-Stem Cell Update

A Catholic Bishop in Brazil recently went on the record concerning his nation’s debate over the use of fetal/embryonic stem cell research. The article states:

Cardinal Agnelo approved of research using adult stem cells, which according to the latest studies are more effective in treating and curing diseases, and he called the creation of embryos through in vitro fertilization for therapeutic reasons "horrific." "It is one of the horrors produced in this environment of technological sophistication, which requires large amounts of resources and reaps enormous economic profits," he added.

His point needs to be taken seriously-the drive behind technological progress is oftentimes a false sense of utopianism. It promises consequence-free solutions if people will simply climb on board the wagon. But, as we have discussed before, the ethical concerns cannot be avoided. Either they are dealt with now, before the technology is fully developed, or they are dealt with then they come back to bite us on our collective posteriors.

Charles Krauthammer is a veteran of the D.C. scene, columnist, trained M.D., and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. He is also paralyzed. You might recall the Kerry campaign’s promise to pull people out of their wheelchairs if they voted for them because they would push ahead on fetal/embryonic stem cell research. Krauthammer’s response to the rhetoric is right on the mark. He states:

In my 25 years in Washington, I have never seen a more loathsome display of demagoguery. Hope is good. False hope is bad. Deliberately raising for personal gain false hope in the catastrophically afflicted is despicable.

And again:

Politicians have long promised a chicken in every pot. It is part of the game. It is one thing to promise ethanol subsidies here, dairy price controls there. But to exploit the desperate hopes of desperate people with the promise of Christ-like cures is beyond the pale.

This paragraph is worth the article:

As a doctor by training, I've known better than to believe the hype -- and have tried in my own counseling of the newly spinal-cord injured to place the possibility of cure in abeyance. I advise instead to concentrate on making a life (and a very good life it can be) with the hand one is dealt. The greatest enemy of this advice has been the snake-oil salesmen promising a miracle around the corner. I never expected a candidate for vice president to be one of them.

And this comes from a man who suffered an injury which caused his paralysis-he was not born that way.

Many of those who press for embryonic stem cell (ESC) research are playing on the hopes of vulnerable people for the sake of their economic and political gain. Doubtless there are many whose motives are as pure as they can be. But what continues to be lost in the din of propaganda is that there is no need for ESC research when adult cells are doing the yeoman’s labor in the real world.

This is a bell that I, and many others, have tolled over and over, but it needs to be rung until people listen. Lives are at stake.

Update: bLogicus has a great post in the same vein here.

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