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Federal Judge Blocks Human Experiments Prompting Left Wing to Hyperbolize

Dennis Byrne 25 August 2010 2 Comments

A federal judge’s ruling this week blocking the federal government from funding embryonic stem cell research has ignited the usual flames of outrage among the political and scientific left.

“Criminal,” said Robert Lanza chief scientific officer of Advanced Cell Technology, which has a financial stake in continued funding. “We are talking about people going blind, people who area dying from a terrifying array of diseases.”

Let’s be courteous and call Lanza’s claim a bit of hyperbole.

Stem cells made from human embryos have not, to my knowledge, restored sight to a single blind person, or prevented or cured anyone from dying from a terrifying array of diseases. It’s all promise. Unlike treatments using adult or cord blood stem cells, techniques that have accomplished seemingly miraculous things.

Because the judge’s ruling has cut off a lucrative source of taxpayers’ money to finance a utopian vision of an embryonic stem cell nirvana, we’ll be hearing more of Lanza-style hyperbole. But the judge, Royce C. Lamberth, of the District of Columbia federal bench, deserves no such condemnations. He was simply following the law, he said, noting that the “unambiguous intent” of Congress was to prohibit the expenditure of federal funds on “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed.”

His quote is taken directly from the language of the law, known as the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, enacted in 1996. What could be clearer than that? If they want to get back their funding, let them go to Congress to change the law.

Let them round up all those Hollywood types and leftwing ideologues that argued that anyone opposing experimentation on human embryos was unspeakably cruel. Among those to catechize such slanders were actors Michael J. Fox and the late Christopher Reeve. Even former first lady Nancy Reagan, remaining true to her Hollywood roots, joined the refrain. The successful PR campaign resulted in California’s Proposition 71, which made up to $10 billion available for embryonic stem cell research in that state.

Also, former President George W. Bush released federal funds for research on five lines of embryonic stem cells. Even though he was the first president to do so, he was roundly criticized for “not doing enough.”

It’s axiomatic that when it comes to federal funding for health, medicine and science, there’s never enough. But the embryonic stem cell advocates—some fueled by the hatred of the “anti-science extreme right” that opposed using human life for experimentation—politicized the debate over adult versus adult stem cell paths to cures.

That’s in spite of the fact that adult stem cell research has been a lot more productive. Malcom Ritter Associated Press science writer, explored this in an Aug. 1 story, “Adult Stem Cell Research Far Ahead of Embryonic. It’s worth quoting at length:

    For all the emotional debate that began about a decade ago on allowing the use of embryonic stem cells, it’s adult stem cells that are in human testing today. An extensive review of stem cell projects and interviews with two dozen experts reveal a wide range of potential treatments.
    Adult stem cells are being studied in people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, heart attacks and diabetes. Some early results suggest stem cells can help some patients avoid leg amputation. Recently, researchers reported that they restored vision to patients whose eyes were damaged by chemicals.
    Apart from these efforts, transplants of adult stem cells have become a standard lifesaving therapy for perhaps hundreds of thousands of people with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases.
    “That’s really one of the great success stories of stem cell biology that gives us all hope,” says Dr. David Scadden of Harvard, who notes stem cells are also used to grow skin grafts.”If we can recreate that success in other tissues, what can we possibly imagine for other people?”

Note that two scientists, James L. Sherley of the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotechnology in Seattle, had brought the suit against federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. hence their standing was challenged, an appeals court allowed the action to proceed based on the argument that the expansion of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research diminished the availability of grants for their research on adult stem cells.

What we have here—again—is the politicalization of science, usually by “progressives.” They refuse, for example, to objectively explore the evidence against manmade global warming. Repeatedly, politically correct considerations from the left have dictated federal science funding priorities, whether it is disproportionately larger expenditures for HIV or for breast cancer research (as long as the latter doesn’t explore the possible link between breast cancer and abortion). President Barack Obama was no exception, campaigning for what some dishonestly described as “restoration” of federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

There are significant ethical objections to killing human life for purposes of experimentation. To ignore more effective, immediate and less expensive alternatives to achieve similar results turns science from an essentially objective and amoral endeavor into a morally objectionable one. Especially when you imply that people who oppose federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and willing to let people die from “a terrifying array of diseases.”


Dennis Byrne is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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  • Jack said:

    Dennis, are you kidding me? I mean seriously I do not even know where to begin with correcting your many flaws in this article. First off, of course you haven’t seen any successes with due to embryonic stem cell derived therapy because they haven’t been given a chance!! With the Bush veto in 2007 and now this silly ruling, you can see how we take 1 step forward and 3 steps back. How can the benefit of hESCs ever be proven when they are constantly having to fight such an uphill battle? 99% of the science world acknowledges that hESCs are the golden standard for stem cell derived treatments. Adult stem cells are good and have worked nicely in some situations, but have nowhere near the potential that human embryonic stem cells do. Geron has been approved by the FDA to start human trials for there hESC derived treatment for spinal chord injuries. Soon, Advanced Cell Technology (yes the company that your beloved Dr. Robert Lanza works for) will get FDA approval to start human trials for there hESC derived treatment for Stargardts Macular Degeneration (a disease that causes blindness in children). They have had 100% results of rescued and restored vision in animals specimens. What will you tell your readers when if have the same in humans too? Isn’t it worth the attempt to see if millions of people afflicted with this disease can be fully cured? Where is the harm in that? About your beef with the fate of hESCs. What is the end result of left embryos as a result of in vitro fertilization? No idea? They are discarded and eventually destroyed. That is right, killed. Yet, you don’t seem to write much about the ethical issues surrounding in vitro. And there is something else you should know. Your best friend Dr. Robert Lanza in 2006 developed a method for extracting a single cell from a 3-5 day embryo WITHOUT DESTROYING THE EMBRYO. The cell lines derived from using this technique are called NED (No Embryo Destruction) lines. That’s right, not all methods of extracting the cells causes any harm to the embryo. So Dennis, you really need to brush up on your knowledge of a subject before you write a completely misinformed article seen by millions and embarrass yourself. This recent Judge Lamberth ruling will be overturned or even better, Congress will pass new embryonic stem cell funding laws. And once results from treatments derived from hESCs happen, I will expect a full apology from you in this paper.

  • John Powers said:


    The rest of the world has been free to do human experiments during the US Moratorium. Where is their progress again?

    If there was any chance of ESC working, wouldn’t venture capitalists be flocking to fund this in say, Canada, for example? They don’t, so it is left to medical experts like Dan Hynes and Rod Blagojevich to fund ESC as a political smack against the pro-life movement rather than scientific/economic realities.


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