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Backing Ethical Stem Cell Research Makes More Sense

By David Plemmons, The Kansas City Star, August 6, 2007

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Pro-life conservatives are often accused of placing faith before progress by opponents of the ethical limitations on scientific research.  Ironically, faith is exactly the primary element in their assertion that only embryonic stem cells will be able to treat our worst ailments.

This point was demonstrated when President Bush vetoed a bill that would force taxpayers to fund the experimental destruction of human embryos, Senator Hillary Clinton was quite critical of the decision.

Said Clinton: “Our scientists have been set back years in the race for life-saving cures because they’ve been held back by a narrow ideology that rejects sound science.”

President Bush on the other hand, strenuously encouraged non-controversial stem cell research and directed Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to do just that.  This fact is conveniently omitted by Senator Clinton in her criticism.

It is as if Bush and fellow conservatives reject stem cell research entirely.  Or at least that is what many politicians, pundits, and journalists claim.  This is at the very best, lazy.  And completely misleading the public at its worst.  Those opposed to embryonic stem cells research want to cure loved ones as well.  They get injured, sick, and paralyzed too.  The difference is that there is a better way to find cures that doesn't involve the killing of embryos.

Using cord blood stem cells, and those derived from amniotic and other adult sources, thousands of patients have been treated worldwide.  But Senator Clinton won't tell anyone this.  With increasing frequency, ethical stem-cell advancements are now being reported almost every day.

These non-controversial treatments and their benefits to those suffering from more than 70 different conditions can easily be found in peer-reviewed scientific literature that is free to access.

Thus far, no documented success in human trials has been achieved using embryonic stem-cell research.  Tumor formation still plagues mice, even after 26 years of testing.  This is where the fanatics of embryonic stem cell research come in.  Faith in scientific arrogance.  These individuals see ethics as excess baggage on a journey to a pseudo-future.

These advocates still march on despite all the scientists urging pundits to stop the hype, no embryonic stem cell success ever achieved in history, and venture capitalists fearful to invest because of the risk of failure.  While all this goes on, non-controversial adult stem cell research and treatment flourishes.

The first goal should be to support and pour all our available resources into ethically sound sources of stem cells.  It would be cruel to deny help to the suffering while those faithful to speculative research insist on spending public funds on the least likely path to cures.

Perhaps Ron Reagan said it best when he addressed the Democratic National Convention in his 2004 prime-time speech: “Their belief is just that, an article of faith, and they are entitled to it. But it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many.”

Reagan was unaware at the time how applicable his statement would be to present day stem cell research.


 

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