I've got to put my two cents in here, as this is something that could eventually affect me directly.
research is not, by any stretch, a new idea. People have been contemplating for decades
how to achieve the "perfect transplant", so to speak. We've tried xenotransplantation
typing, all kinds of things. But still, most people who receive an organ
from a donor
are on immunosuppressive therapy
for the rest of their life in order to prevent rejection
of the organ.
So, as science makes its progress, we stumble upon a few potential miracles of modern science: cloning, and stem cells. And we, as scientists, think, "Amazing! Finally, a way to make new organs for people that they won't reject! A way to live longer, healthier lives! A way to make a few bucks in the process!"
Now remember, to get a stem cell, you have to have an embryo. Adult humans have very few stem cells left in their bodies; the vast majority of the cells in the adult body are very near their dividing limits. But a couple of privately funded companies (Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine in Virginia, which produced one of the first test-tube babies, and Advanced Cell Technology, Inc., in Massachusetts) have already begun finding new sources for stem cells via cloning or via embryogenesis. (Stem cells were previously only derived from embryos that had already been made, but were about to be destroyed.)
These incidents have only made the debates over cloning and embryonic/stem cell research even more heated. Should the United States ban all cloning research on humans? Should we ban all stem cell research using human cells? Should we ban research on embryos that would otherwise be discarded? Or should the ban be limited only to federal funding in any or all cases?
Most of this was brought to the world's attention about a week before the President left for Europe to meet with the Pope. It is known that most of Bush's closest advisors are against stem cell research, and it is known that the Roman Catholic Church's official position is against stem cell research (even though at least 60% of Catholics are all for it!!). And, given these new, outrageous findings, it is feared by much of the scientific community that President Bush will ban all stem cell research, and possibly all human cloning research.
Imagine this: you've just had a heart attack and are going into cardiac arrest. The doctors in the emergency room can revive you, but your heart is severely damaged, and you need a new one. Which would you rather hear:
- "We're sorry, but you'll have to wait at least eighteen months for a new heart, because your tissue type is very rare."
- "We're happy to tell you that we can find a heart for you, because someone with your exact tissue type was just brought in from a fatal car accident. But you'll need to stay in the hospital for six weeks and on immunosuppressants for the rest of your life." They'd never tell you why, but just play along, okay?
- "We're happy to tell you that we have a heart for you, but it's from a pig, so you'll be on immunosuppressants for the rest of your life."
- "We're happy to tell you that we have a heart for you, and it's a perfect match, so you can go home in a week, with no immunosuppressants."
Now, imagine this: you're a member of a couple who cannot have a child, for whatever reason, without help. You go to a fertility clinic, and they harvest gametes from you and your partner; you know that they've harvested more than you'll ever need. Do you:
- offer your excess gametes/embryos for scientific research that could benefit the lives of other people?
- have the extra embryos destroyed, knowing that you had the option to save lives with your extra embryos?
- let them sit there and not do anything about them?
Is it abortion
to destroy an embryo, or to use it for purposes other than generating a child? Is it morally wrong to disallow something that could save the lives of thousands of people that are already alive?
Should the government have the right to prevent research that could someday save the lives of the people that ban it? Should the government simply not give federal money, but allow private funding?
Most importantly, does the United States government have the right to decide what is moral? George Bush has the potential to make scientific research a felony, simply because he believes it to be morally wrong. Does his title give him that right?
Do you want your morality handed to you on a right-wing Republican platter?
Complaints, comments, and hearty (dis)agreements should NOT be addressed to me. /msg me only if you think I missed something, or spelled something wrong. Don't vote me down because you don't like it. Talk to your Congressman. They're the people who can prevent this thing from happening. Don't be afraid to let your government officials know what you will or won't stand for. They're there to represent you.
Source (used for facts about the companies mentioned):
the New York Times: July 11, 2001; July 14, 2001