60 Minutes Stem Cell Issue (for Gayle)
60 Minutes did a hatchet job on the embryonic stem cell debate, about 4 weekends ago. Listen to Laura Ingraham's interview about a week later, with professor Robert George of Princeton University (featured in the 60 Minutes piece), who is on President Bush's council on bio-ethics. The audio is under 5 minutes, and they had a longer conversation than what is actually provided on this audio clip. But hey: beggars can't be choosers. Especially if you're not a Laura 365 member.
The professor points out among the biggest distortions in the 60 Minutes segment are the omissions; such as how only a small number of the 400,000 embryos in cryogenic preserve would be available for the research even if the President lifted his limitation on federal funding; or how there is no limit to private funding of embryonic stem cell research. And if it is such promising science, why then isn't the money flowing in? Why must we be led to believe that without government funding, President Bush has somehow banned the research from taking place? That's the perception that many people are left with.
The ethics may be questioned, but there is nothing unlawful about the destruction of embryos for research. And if there is so much potential, the beauty of capitalism is, as Professor Robert George puts it, that "money will flow where money is needed". But the money isn't really flowing. Why isn't it? Think of the financial rewards for firms that among helped to cure such human conditions as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and spinal cord injuries. Perhaps it is because the actual science doesn't support the findings, thus far, of embryonic stem cell research. Maybe it's not just "religious nuts" who have a good reason not to see the promise in the message of Ron Reagan Jr. and John Edwards, saying "If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."
There was a time when fetal tissue transplant was hyped as the science miracle that will provide the cure. It was the latest in a series of fads, and nothing came of it.
I am not saying that embryonic stem cell research will not one day provide us with the fruits of its research. It may, and it may not. It is wrong to make exaggerated claims, though. We should not be misled into believing that the miracle cure lies just around the bend. To date, not a single one is in clincial trial, much less of any kind of help to anyone. At best, its therapeutic value is speculative. Contrast this to the more than 65 diseases that have been treated thanks to adult stem cell research. Sometimes it's as if news of adult stem cell research has been suppressed and embryonic stem cell research hyped. Actually, I shouldn't say "sometimes", because that IS the perception pushed by the popular media.
This is how Ed Bradley describes the restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research:
a field which shows enormous promise but "restricted by a ban on federal funding for research because it involves the destruction of human embryos. To move the science forward, California allocated its own money to pay for stem cell research.
Yes, through bond measures, which is the most expensive way to fund government projects. And the California Prop 71 was sold in large part on the hyped supposed research by a South Korean scientist who had his results published in a reputable and prestigious journal, Science Magazine. And now, as it turns out, he had faked the research.
Why is it, that it is always described as a "ban"? Same with "ban" on gay marriage. President Bush has created no such "ban".
"scientists say the pace of research has been slowed down by President Bush's ban in 2001 on the use of federal funds to create new lines of embryonic stem cells."
I started this piece before the 2nd 60 Minutes segment aired on February 26th (I was on my Phoenix trip when it aired, and caught the tail end of it from my hotel room), but have been slow on finishing this post. I might as well go ahead and address that one as well. You can see the video here:
(Gayle, if you can't view the video, download it at ExposetheLeft.com).
Spinal Confusion points out the following misleading errors:
Ed Bradley: "Laboratory rats whose hind legs were completely paralyzed — until they were injected with human stem cells. Remarkably, afterwards, the rats were able to walk again."
Pending FDA approval, correspondent Ed Bradley reports that would make him the first scientist in the United States to transplant embryonic stem cells into humans.
Steven Edwards, who has spinal cord injury and who is a research advocate, points out the treatment was not with stem cells but with human oligodendroglial precursor cells.
He writes in a letter to 60 Minutes:
Hans Kierstead's team does *not* transplant embryonic stem cells into the spinal cord. They generate a specific type of cells known as oligodendroglial precursor cells (OPCs) by culturing the embryonic stem cells and then transplant these OPCs, which remyelinate the demyelinated axons.
Also check out another post of his here, regarding the 2nd 60 Minutes piece from February 26th. I think he is free of the political divisions of Left and Right, and speaks honestly from an informed perspective, and as someone with a vested interest in the research, being one who stands to benefit from any advances in the field research. Check out his other posts at Spinal Confusion.