Archive for Friday, June 2, 2006

Protect life

June 2, 2006


To the editor:

Stem cells derived from umbilical cords is leading-edge research, and it is exciting to follow all the success. It also is gratifying to know we have premier scientists in Kansas that are top researchers in this science, one of whom is Dr. Kathy Mitchell. However, Dr. Mitchell does not know my specific views about embryonic stem cell research, and I was surprised to see the Journal-World would allow her to speak for me.

It is clear that embryonic stem cells have major drawbacks because of tissue rejection and tumor growth, but in addition, there has not been any significant success with this research. There also are ethical problems with embryonic stem cells. The extraction of these cells always destroys the embryo. Because of the destruction of human life, this type of research becomes a threat to human dignity.

Protecting human life from the very beginning is certainly consistent with many religions, including Christian and Jewish teaching, and with the teaching of other religions that defend the fact that there is a truth of inherent human dignity, that human dignity is intrinsic, and that human beings are meant to be ends in themselves and not means only.

The public principle of equality and dignity and basic human rights is found in our Declaration of Independence, so it is consistent with the public philosophy and the founding principles of the United States of America.

Fortunately, because of great success with nonembryonic stem cells, we are free to go forward with ethical research that also is showing the most success in leading the way to treating human diseases.

Mary Pilcher Cook,



pundit 11 years, 4 months ago

Mary Pilcher Cook is a classic example of a right wing legislator as described in the "American Theocracy" She does not introduce legislation deeming fertilized eggs frozen in fertility clinics to be human, but that would be consistent.

Embryonic Stem Cell research, by all measures, holds great promise which will reqire years to develop. The ruse of comparing it to 'cord blood' stem cell research is an attempt to confuses two very different lines of science and stem cells.

Legislators and members of the State Board of Education should not be making our science decisions for us.


mefirst 11 years, 4 months ago

Lunacy: Please identify ONE scientific fact presented in this letter.

Mary's on a moral high horse, but I'd be the first to wager that if one of her loved ones could benefit from embryonic stem cell research, her position would change and fast.

Thanks Mary for shoving your version of morality down my throat. Clearly, you know what's best for me, my family, and this country. What would we do without you?

Bradley Kemp 11 years, 4 months ago

MPC has two children predisposed to Huntington's disease, which might be amenable to a stem cell treatment.

This, of course, demonstrates that she'll go to absurd lengths -- including perhaps imperiling her children -- in attempting to preserve a measure of political power based on the belief that human life begins at conception.

She's free to believe that, of course, but almost no one I know believes that a few hundred cells in a Petri dish are the same thing -- physically, ethically, morally -- as a human being.

During the last two legislative session, MPC has introduced legislation that would ban embryonic stem cell research in Kansas -- and would even make Kansans felons if they left the state to receive an embryonic stem cell therapy elsewhere and then returned to Kansas.

Fortunately, that legislation has gone essentially nowhere. And she won't be around during the next legislative session to introduce it again.

craigers 11 years, 4 months ago

I'm not sure where I heard this from, but can they get the stem cells they need out of an ambilical cord after the baby is born? It that's the case then maybe some mothers wouldn't have a problem with donating some. I will have to say though that I don't agree with abortion on any level, so if harvesting stem cells destroys a living human being then I don't support it. However, I am not an expert on stem cells.

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 4 months ago

This letter is simply a rattling off of dogma from anti-abortion groups and has no basis in science or in the Bible.

"It is clear that embryonic stem cells have major drawbacks because of tissue rejection and tumor growth, but in addition, there has not been any significant success with this research."

Aside from the obtuse wording of this sentence, this is just wrong. There is a risk of tumor growth and tissue rejection with any stem cell transplant, embryonic or adult. Tissue rejection is the reason for cloning by nuclear transplantation to generate stem cells; tissue rejection is minimized because the cells carry your own DNA and protein markers.

By "success" I take it to mean MPC means "a cured disease". No disease has been cured by any stem cell treatment, adult or embryonic, but it is true that adult blood stem cells have been very benificial in bone marrow transplants. Embryonic stem cell research is in its infancy, and experiments indicate that much potential exists for their use in future medicine. A ban on their use will make this point mute and we would never know.

"Protecting human life from the very beginning is certainly consistent with many religions,.."

Prove to me scientifically or from religious texts (the Bible) that a human life begins after fertilization of the egg by the sperm. Where in the Bible does it say this? Where in science is it proven that a human life starts at fertilization? This is an interpretation favored by christian fundamentalists but it is found nowhere in the Bible or in science.

"Fortunately, because of great success with nonembryonic stem cells, we are free to go forward with ethical research that also is showing the most success in leading the way to treating human diseases"

To belive this statement, you must agree that a human being comes into existence after fertilization, period. Adult stem cells do have much potential, as do embryonic stem cells. There is no evidence from the Bible or from science that a human life starts at fertilization. This is an idea favored by some fundamentalist christians.

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 4 months ago

craigers, umbilical stem cells are of the "non-embryonic" category. They have the potential to form many tissues including blood, but embryonic stem cells have the potential to form any and every tissue in the body. This is why they have so much medical potential.

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 4 months ago

At the stage when embryonic stem cells are isolated from a fertilized embryo, the embryo has not yet implanted into the uterus.

Furthermore, the stem cells are not yet even specified at this point to form the embryo proper. They all have equal chance to form the embryo or to form parts of the placenta (amnion and umbilical cord). In other words, the embryo, which will go on to form the fetus and the infant, has not yet been defined from the stem cells at this point.

Both of these events, implantation and specification of the embryo from the stem cells, are just as necessary as fertilization for embryonic development to proceed.

lunacydetector 11 years, 4 months ago

mefirst, everything the letter writer wrote is fact based. check them yourself. also, pundit, does a great job confusing the issue between embryonic and adult or cord blood stem cells -of course i'm sure they are all for embryonic stem cell experimentation. as dr. mengele used to say when he was experimenting on jewish twins, heil hitler (because history has almost come full circle around again). embryonic stem cell supporters should think of themselves as modern day nazis (not trying to invoke the nazi term into the debate, but who else can i use to compare them with on a factual basis?).

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 4 months ago

"Human life begins somewhere, doesn't it?"

-Of course. But it is likely to be a culmination of factors and not one single event. When does a thunderstrom begin? When does a hurricane begin?

"If something has a beginning, it should be relatively easy to determine that starting point, yes?"


"So, worstwhatever, when does human life begin?"

-I don't know, but a ball of undifferentiated cells is not likely to be human life. No more so than cancer cells or teratocarcinoma cells.

"Or is that even relevant? If the "good of the many" outweighs the "good of the few", does it even matter if the salvaged one is human or not? Embryo or two-month old - what does it matter?"

-Dealing with uncertainty is difficult, but it is a reality. Instead of taking symbolic stances on unanswerable issues, it is better to be practical and deal with reality. I understand the comfort of certainty, but it is artificial and can lead to real problems as can all dogmatic thought.

-Your Star Trek philosophy is humorous, and I would reason that the good of the many certainly outweighs the good of a lump of undifferentiated tissue.

"It's quite a slippery slope that people dance on with such careless ease, isn't it?"

Again, many things in life are uncertain. This is why practicality, reason, and deliberation are so important. A slippery slope maybe, but you seem to think that it is an inevitability that the slope will be slipped down and that we have no control over it. Again, very dogmatic, deterministic thinking.

Confrontation 11 years, 4 months ago

Gee, Mary, we all know that religion is perfect and wonderful, and that it's never caused a single conflict. Why in the world would we ever consider a religious person's view as not being absolutely right? Great posts by yourworstnightmare.

tolawdjk 11 years, 4 months ago

"That blob of 'undifferentiated cells' is on a development path to one thing - a human being. Seems like an important point to recognize."

By that arguement, every menstruation is murder! It would have been a human being if you would only let it! I deviated it off its chosen path, you commie, pinko, liberal!

And don't even get me started about the genocide that is the "five knuckle shuffle". Makes Rawanda look like daycare in comparison.

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 4 months ago

"Is the creation of a human life a continuum?"

Yes. No one single event is defining; it is the culmination of many events that need to happen, including sperm and egg formation, fertilization, specification of the embryo from the embryonic stem cells, implantation into the uterus, induction of a nervous system, etc.

"That blob of 'undifferentiated cells' is on a development path to one thing - a human being."

Not true. Embryonic stem cells can and do form both the embryo (the future human being) and parts of the placenta (amnion, umbilicus). It is the signals they receive from their environment that instruct them to develop as embryo or placenta.

Why fertilization is singled out as the most important event is puzzling. Is it because it is a step that requires two individuals coming together to mate? Then what about in vitro fertilization, where there is no copulation or interaction of individuals?

Maybe we should slide the scale back and say that any cells undergoing meiosis in the gonads (on their way to forming sperm and egg) are when life begins, because they are also set on a path to one thing-a human being.

Every sperm is sacred!

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 4 months ago

"Before that point, those "blobs" aren't on any development path of human life."

Sure they are. All it takes is for a sperm and egg to meld for development to proceed. Just as it takes implantation of a zygote into the uterine wall for development to proceed. There is nothing magical about fertilization. It is but a step in a process.

"Good question on in vitro - is it going too far?"

Who's being silly? At least I was joking.

badger 11 years, 4 months ago

Craigers -

the position with regards to abortion is clear, and I understand that, as it's based in a direct outfall of your feelings on abortion. However, I seem to remember that you don't hold a similar position against artificial means of conception (please correct me if I'm wrong in that).

Therefore, what about unused embryos? In the case where a man and a woman go to a fertility clinic, create five embryos, and three of them are unused, is it acceptable to use those embryos for stem cell research? If it's not, what should be done with them? At some point, they're no longer viable, and usually at some point before that the parents decide that they aren't going to use any of those embryos to conceive any more children.

They will never be implanted, just frozen for a rainy day that never comes. It's not even likely that someone unable to conceive would want to use them if the genetic owners agreed. Given that those frozen embryos are a reality, how should we handle those embryos, as the three options realistically available are: destroy them, keep them forever long after they're even remotely viable, or use them for stem cell research?

More importantly, how, if we choose to use them, can we safeguard against the creation of embryos deliberately for the purpose of stem cell research? And how, if we choose to destroy them, will we establish criteria for when it's acceptable to do so, and how will we distinguish ethically speaking between the destruction of an un-implanted embryo and the use of the morning-after pill or hormonal birth control, for those who feel that either of those choices is morally equivalent to abortion? And how, if we choose to keep them indefinitely, do we ensure a secure power supply and enough space - and if an accident does cause the destruction of a facility's worth of preserved embryos, what will differentiate the event legally from a car accident in which someone is charged with two deaths because he killed a pregnant woman?

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 4 months ago

Hey con-man, you and rightstinker hooked up lately? That was so sweet. You guys make a great couple.

wildkat 11 years, 4 months ago

All types of stem cell research should be done. We have much to learn and don't know which types of stem cells might be best for different diseases until we do the research. We can debate where human life begins endlessly but we undoubtedly can define its end. When this ending of human life is someone's daughter or father and is due to a disease we hope to treat with stem cells someday, it's a tragic loss. We need to pursue stem cell research without biases based on religion or less than well-informed scientific opinions. We need to stop debating which stem cells are the "right" ones when the research has yet to be done. Just let the research be done that will hopefully fulfill the promise and hope we have for stem cell therapy.

Terry Jacobsen 11 years, 4 months ago

Not really into this debate, but one thing I know. You cannot remove religion from anything in life. People who truly believe their religion to be true simply cannot turn it off on command. Most truly religious people regardless of which faith they serve, struggle with trying to balance it against a world that is constantly trying to drive it out of them.

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