June 20, 2007

Bush Vetoes Stem-Cell Bill

And they report it like it's some kind of big surprise. Didn't the President make it clear where he stands on this issue five years ago?

What really annoys me, however, is the way this issue is handled in the media. Hillary weighed in with this pledge: "Let me be very clear. When I am president, I will lift the ban on stem cell research." Well that ought to be an easy promise to keep, seeing as there is no ban on stem cell research. You see how rhetoric works? The average American hears this and infers that Bush has effectively banned all stem-cell research. And the media plays along.

In reality, the President is refusing to allow federal funds (that's our taxpayer dollars, for you Liberals out there following along) to be used for embryonic stem cell research. There are lots of private dollars currently funding embryonic stem-cell research both in the U.S. and around the world.

Now from simply a practical perspective, not using taxpayer's money to publicly fund embryonic stem cell research makes sense. Why? Because in twenty years it's produced pretty much nothing in the way of cures, treatments or other medical breakthroughs. So why pump money into an activity that has no return on investment? Ethics aside, it doesn't even make financial sense.

But Gary, how can you just shut the door on the hopes of those who are afflicted with such life-altering diseases as ovarian cancer, acute myelogenous leukemia, multiple sclerosis and sickle cell anemia? You heartless bastard! How?

Simple. The success in treating those diseases and scores of others has been found using adult stem cells. That's where you get the bang for your buck. That's where you find real hope, not false hope. And there's the added benefit of not having to destroy an embryo to do it. Not to mention the fact that it poses no medical dangers to the patient (unlike trials based on embryonic stem cells). That's not a Conservative position, it's a sensible one.

So let's recap:
Adult stem cell research: 73 applicable treatments.
Embryonic stem cell research: 0

The problem is that this issue has been so politicized that it makes it near impossible to look at it objectively.

If embryonic stem cell research holds as much promise as it's advocates believe then the funding from private sources should be pouring in. Imagine the financial return on such an investment if it were to fulfill the grand promises currently being made. Funding decisions should be made with both the risks and the rewards considered. Of course, with public funding there is no risk. If the money is spent and nothing comes of it, it isn't Congress who loses.

It's us, the public, who foots the bill. And since when has Congress ever concerned itself with that minor detail?

Posted by Gary at June 20, 2007 02:30 PM | TrackBack

There's this, too:

All the benefits, none of the nasty side effects.

If it actually works, of course...

Posted by: brainy435 at June 20, 2007 01:40 PM

I love how all the scientists I work with get their panties in a bunch over this. Embryonic stem cell work is just a shot in the dark right now, while adult stem cells are actually yielding treatments. In that light, it makes sense that you direct research $$ towards adult stem cell research, anyway. But you know, it's really easy to IGNORE the science (a la algore) and bash the President for his morals when you don't have any yourself.

Posted by: caltechgirl at June 20, 2007 01:44 PM

When you consider who is behind the drive for embryonic stem-cell research you can better understand the politics behind it.

One argument against it is that an embryo is life. If this were to take hold as a general consensus, the ramifications would be significant.

And you open up a pandora's box that the pro-abortion lobby has an interest in keeping closed.

Posted by: Gary at June 20, 2007 02:28 PM

I've been trying to work up a post on this myself - you said everything I was trying to put into coherent thoughts. I get so annoyed with the media pratting on about the ban on stem cells that doesn't actually exist as well as the inanity of the liberal lobby refusing to tout the benefits seen and proven by adult stem cell research, simply because it would damage their plea to necessitate acquisition of embryonic ones.

Posted by: beth at June 20, 2007 03:51 PM

In the 1992 campaign, the Dems pushed hard on funding fetal tissue research, using the same arguments as today for embryonic stem cells - a cure was right around the corner for Parkinson's, spinal cord injury, etc. If only Bush the Senior would listen to the almighty voice of Science (and the gosh darn smart people) all the people we would save, improved Quality of Life. One of the first things Bill Clinton did following his inaguration was repeal the fetal tissue funding ban.

Well, its been nearly fifteen years - where are breakthroughs? Surely there must be at least one story worthy of the Today show?

I think the fetal tissue research benefits was over hyped, as is embroyonic stem cell 'promises'.

Let us be cautious when we tread into the realm where human beings, however small, are bred to researched and harvested, and then discarded. For then we traverse the dangerous path from a human as value because they are human, to they have value only when we choose to give it to them. When we reach that end, anything is possible, and nothing is safe or sacred.

Posted by: kmr at June 20, 2007 09:02 PM

Cord blood transfers (which saved the life of a leukemic child in my neighborhood) are a direct concequence of fetal tissue research. There are now national initiatives to generate cordblood banks as a better alternative to bone marrow transplants.

It is a common complaint against scientific research that no results have been found in a (typically) new avenue of research so why continue? It is much like planting a seed and shouting "where are my apples?" the next day. By the time scientific discoveries make it to healthcare, typically decades have passed.

And the website Gary links to demonstrate the utility of adult stem cells v. embryonic ones is (in part) founded by the Family Research Council, has a distinctly political agenda and distorts the scientific record by playing on the ignorance of the lay population to the actual details of stem cell research. Adult stem cells are different than embryonic ones, that is true. That is why they are both critical components of basic research.

Posted by: LB Buddy at June 22, 2007 02:16 PM

LB Buddy,

Thanks for the clarification. On the political side, again the Dems are selling the 'break through' expectations as if Parkinson's and spinal cord injury will be cured / repaired soon.

I would expect the enthusiam would wane a bit if Hillary Clinton's speech on stem cells was 'we're really not sure, but the benefits will be years (if not decades) away'. If Christopher Reeve were still alive, the embryonic stem cell advocates would be pushing "he'll get up on walk" ads.

I don't deny the need for basic research, but we need to tread carefully in the area where human beings are the source and subject of such testing. We may (and I fear already are) on a slippery slope where the ends justify the means.

Posted by: kmr at June 24, 2007 09:26 AM