Red China and Ukraine: Science serving greed
At a time when the Christmas Season should allow so many around the world a few moments of comfort and joy, we are confronted with two chilling stories: From the former Soviet Union, the BBC reports that healthy Ukrainian babies are being murdered so their stem cells can be sold to laboratories purporting to do stem cell research. From Red China, come reports of a black market in human organs taken from healthy, adult victims who are murdered in order to harvest their organs for transplant into wealthy recipients. Clearly, this is technology or pseudo-technology run amuck in the service of greed.
But, in this regard, the United States has been and remains on the side of the angels. Back in 2001, in his first, prime-time TV address to the nation, President George W. Bush made it clear that federal funds would only be used for research on existing stem cells lines that were derived: with the informed consent of the donors; from excess embryos created solely for reproductive purposes; and without any financial inducements to the donors. He went on to say that no federal funds could be used for: the derivation or use of stem cell lines derived from: newly destroyed embryos; the creation of any human embryos for research purposes; or the cloning of human embryos for any purpose. That said, President Bush set aside $250 million dollars to support government stem cell research meeting the above criteria.
Fortunately, it is not necessary to harvest and kill viable, embryonic stem cells for technology to march forward in its quest for cures for terrible diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, diabetes, or spinal cord injuries and other conditions.
Both private and government research laboratories involved in stem cell research routinely visit hospitals to collect discarded umbilical cords and discarded placenta that are the detritus of the successful delivery of healthy human babies. Experts practicing true science in the area of stem cell research, and not those just trying to get a government grant, say that there are plenty of ways to obtain useful, stem cells without killing babies either inside or outside the womb.
If there were anything to the notion that the harvesting of human embryos via abortion or other forms of murder is necessary, one of the first to know about it would be Washington Post columnist and Fox News panelist, Charles Krauthammer, M.D. What makes Dr. Krauthammer an expert on spinal cord injuries and keenly interested in what stem cell research might portend is the fact that Dr. Krauthammer is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. Even so, Dr. Krauthammer contends that ample stem cells are available without the killing of human embryos or aborting fetuses or murdering children who are alive and well.
But, as we saw in the recent election cycle, some of the Hollywood glitterati, the Sinistra Media, university laboratories hunting for federal research dollars and even the misguided fans of the late Hollywood actor, Christopher Reeve, tried to claim that the killing of additional embryonic stem cells is justified – even though ample stem cell lines are already available.
In 1932, the British science-fiction writer, Aldous Huxley, wrote about humans being “hatched” in test tubes. Indeed, today’s reproductive science has made it possible for, otherwise, infertile couples to have babies “hatched” in a test tube and then delivered naturally by the mother. But the test-tube process can create embryos in excess of the needs of their natural parents or, perhaps, not wanted by other infertile couples who prefer embryos of their “own.” What to do with “excess” frozen embryos is a question that scientists, physicians, ethicists, lawyers and theologians have yet to resolve.
But, for sure, this is a field of human endeavor that needs the objective examination of scientific fact -- not political posturing or hyperbole by those seeking financial profit or by those trying to gain political advantage.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist, a featured commentator for USA Today and self-described “recovering lawyer and philosopher,” is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – two thrillers about terrorism directed against the United States.
© 2006. William Hamilton.