Monday, April 24, 2006

Stem Cells and The Political Fog

This article in the NY Times highlights what the lack of information and clarity can do for an issue as important at embryonic stem cell research. Throughout, the piece assumes that embryonic stem cell research is the only form of research and that, according to a view expressed in the article, anyone opposed to it “oppose[s] the science.”

Unfortunately, as long as the truth about adult stem cells is clouded in political fog and obscured by pharmacological profit, embryonic humans will continue to be used and destroyed as vote-getting cannon fodder. Not once does the article mention the gains of adult stem cell research or its immunity from the ethical debate, and it is hard to tell exactly why. It is possible that the author doesn’t know that ESCs have produced no viable clinical results and that ASCs have already produced over 50. It is also possible that the author didn’t mention those kinds of facts because the senatorial candidates she covered were both so uninformed that they never raised the issue either. Either way, it is depressing and a little disconcerting.

The article’s author had at least one opportunity to mention the scientific as well as the ethical debate, but failed. She wrote:

Although scientists see hope in embryonic stem cell research for treatments and cures, opponents view the studies as immoral because the cells are extracted from human embryos.

There is far more to this issue than that, and it ought to be noted when it is raised.

One of the Senatorial candidates made this bifurcating statement:

"There are people of principle who disagree with this form of research," Ms. McCaskill told her audience. "I respect their principles. But what I don't respect is someone dancing around science for political cover."

It seems to me that politicos who avoid the real-world advances of adult stem cells are dancing around the science for political gain.

I have to admit that it still baffles me how this issue can remain so shallow and obscured in the public eye.

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