Spinning the Stem Cell Research Issue

By Alicia Colon
Rightgrrl Contributor
July 23, 2001

I'm still waiting for the whole truth to be reported on the stem cell research issue currently making the rounds in the media. I did my homework on the subject but I seem to be one of the very few to do so. The media is determined to report a Bush crisis of conscience because he is being pressured by factions within the GOP over the issue. Imagine, even traditional congressional pro-lifers are willing to fund the research since it involves surplus embryos created in fertility labs destined to be destroyed anyway, so what the hey? Why not? Think of the possible benefits to victims of diseases like Parkinsons, Alzheimers, etc. On the other hand, hard liners, in particular, the Roman Catholic Church, are taking the position that these embryos are human beings, not property. They claim that there is no need to use embryonic stem cells when umbilical and placenta stem cells have proven to be more valuable. They warn of the slippery slope we're heading for, using human body parts indiscriminately.

What I have failed to hear anyone mention in the debate is what was first published in the New York Times on March 8, 2001. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a fetal stem cell research study to treat Parkinson disease failed to show any benefit and had a disastrous side effect in about 15 percent of the research patients. Not only did these patients suffer impaired movement, writhing and jerking uncontrollably, there was no way to remove or deactivate the transplanted cells. These research victims are worse off now than before the study. One of the researchers in the study, Dr. Paul E. Greene, was quoted as saying that these results were absolutely devastating. Needless to say, the research study was halted.

What's that you say? So what? Yes, the study involved using stem cells from aborted fetuses and we are talking about embryonic not fetal stem cells.

But shouldn't these tragic results give one pause? Shouldn't we be saying, hold on a moment? Let's not rush into something hastily. Shouldn't we be hearing more about the failures of this research instead of trying to cloud the issue with glowing predictions of the benefits of embryonic cells? Methinks, they do protest too much about efforts to delay funding for what might prove catastrophic for research patients.

I think that I, too, would have been likely to side with the go-ahead crowd if I had not learned of the derailed study and the disastrous side effects. After all, these embryos are going to be tossed away anyway, so why not put them to good use? Then again, I think that if I am truly pro-life, I have to think of them as human beings in the embryonic stage of life, just as we all were at one time.

Recently, Lenore Skenazy, a columnist for the New York Daily News wrote a column offering to researchers the leftover embryos from the two in-vitro fertilization processes that produced her children. I suppose she thought that this was a generous gesture but I seriously wonder if she's given much thought to what she proposes. She writes that after the healthy embryos were implanted in her, she signed a waiver to allow the genetically diseased embryos to be used for research.

The fact is, many of these so-called potentially life-saving stem cells may come from genetically flawed embryos considered unsuitable for implantation. Considering the disastrous fetal cell experiment results, we should be putting a brake to this research until the risks are minimal. That we are not exercising the necessary caution indicates that there are political agendas in play rather than genuine scientific interests.

Alicia's column archives can be found at www.aliciacolon.com

Copyright 2001 by Alicia Colon. Not to be reproduced in any fashion, in whole or in part, without written consent from the author. All rights reserved.