Yesterday’s Thoughts

May 25, 2005

Wow, He Really Believes This

Yesterday the House of Representatives passed a bill to allow stem cell research involving embryos that are in frozen storage at fertility clinics. (link)

President Bush has promised to veto this bill because it “would take us across a critical ethical line.” “Every embryo is unique and genetically complete, like every other human being. And each of us started out our life this way. These lives are not raw material to be exploited, but gifts.” He appeared with a roomful of children who had been adopted at the embryo stage from parents who undergone fertility treatments and had donated their frozen embryos.

I can respect the President’s views. I have to believe that the only reason he could say something so stunningly ignorant is because he believes it.

Every cell of every person is unique and genetically complete. Is the President planning an initiative to save every cell from every person in the world?

If what we seek to preserve is the unique and genetically complete person, does that mean that we can begin genetic experimentation of one of a set of identical twins?

How about if we let these frozen embryos divide just once, implant one cell in an adoptive mother and use the other for stem cell research? No “unique and genetically complete” individual has been sacrificed. This is just a transplantation operation involving a donor at the two cell stage.

You know this last is such an absurd formulation that it might just pass ethical muster with a little bit of tweaking. Ensure that the separation of the cells can be done without harm to the donor. Ensure that the donor is viable before using the donated cell in experiments.

To complete the carnival, Tom DeLay is quoted too. “An embryo is a person, a distinct internally directed, self-integrating human organism,” Mr. DeLay said, adding, “We were all at one time embryos ourselves. So was Abraham. So was Muhammad. So was Jesus of Nazareth.”

I am substantially more certain that evolution happened than Mr. DeLay is of the embryonicity of Jesus. Not that I want to debate theological genetics with anyone, especially Mr. DeLay, but I have to ask, ” Was he there?” How does he know the Holy Spirit didn’t form Jesus as a blastula? If God can breathe life into Adam’s clay, surely He is not constrained to the mere mixture of gametes.

That Mr. DeLay is so presumptuous as to categorically assert knowledge of the biological mechanisms of God’s workings is no surprise. That this presumption passes for morality certainly is.

2 Comment(s)

  1. b. cole | May 30, 2005 | Reply

    My personal interest is in finding a cure for Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes. My
    now 15 year old daughter was diagnosed almost 5 years ago. So far, she has
    pricked her fingers approximately 11,000 times, and has taken about 7,500
    insulin injections. If she had cancer, she could hope to be cured – or at
    least to go into remission so she wouldn”t need 4 or 5 or 6 insulin shots
    every day just to stay alive. Right now, all we can hope for is that she
    doesn’t have a heart attack or a stroke, that she doesn’t go blind, that
    her kidneys keep working and that her feet and legs don’t have to be amputated.

    Now, let me tell you about the economics of diabetes. Diabetics test their
    blood sugar levels at least four times a day – children with type 1
    juvenile diabetes test more like 6 to 8 timees a day. These little test
    strips that are used to measure blood glucose levels cost, conservatively
    and on average, 70 cents per strip. Diabetics who test their blood glucose
    level just 4 times per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime) are spending
    Two Dollars and Eighty Cents per day, or a little over a thousand dollars a
    year, minimum, on these strips. That’s over a billion dollars per year for
    every 1 million diabetics, and there are an estimated 17 million people
    suffering from diabetes in the US alone.

    Next, I am going to review the financials from the 2003 and 2004 Annual
    Reports of Eli Lilly & Company, one of the major producers of insulin.
    Before I do, I want to remind you that insulin will never cure diabetes. It
    is what my 15-year-old refers to as her ‘lifeline’. It keeps a diabetic
    alive, but does not prevent the catastrophic side effects. And it will
    never cure anyone!

    2003: “Our worldwide sales…increaseed 14%, to 12.58 billion dollars.”
    Sources of revenue: “Diabetes care products, composed primarily of
    Humulin…Humalog…and Actos…hs…had aggregate worldwide revenues of 2.57
    billion dollars.” Ladies and gentlemen, 20% of the worldwide sales were
    from 3 products, 2 of which (Humulin and Humalog) are for ‘maintenance’ of
    type 1 diabetics. In 2003, Humulin sales in the US were 507.5 million
    dollars, and were 658.6 million dollars for Humalog.

    The 2004 numbers are equally staggering. The same three products had
    aggregate worldwide revenues of 2.61 billion dollars. Humulin sales in the
    US were only 422.7 million, but Humalog sales in the US were up to 685.4
    million dollars. An explanation offered by Eli Lilly is (and this is a
    direct quote!) “Humalog sales in the US increased 3 percent as increased
    prices offset slight volume declines.”

    That’s 5.18 billion dollars in a two-year period – to treat patients who
    will not get better. That’s a whole loot of insurance and medicare dollars
    going to two drugs to maintain a condition for which there actually might
    be a cure.

    Breakthroughs using stem cell therapies have been announced all over the
    world, and involving many conditions, such as reversing the side effects of
    diabetes, curing type 1 juvenile diabetes, restoration of immune systems in
    cancer patients, improvement of a Parkinson’s patient’s motor skills by
    83%, reversal of heart tissue damage in a heart attack victim, the list
    goes on and on. Stem cells work, and more research is needed.

    This is not a religious issue. This is a health issue. This is a “where are
    my Medicare dollars going?” issue – a quality of life issue Even though
    the dollars are huge, let’s not forget that the main benefits from stem
    cell research and therapies are to improve the health and to save the lives
    of millions who suffer, or who may in the future suffer from diseases that
    could be treated or cured with new stem cell therapies. We are talking
    about improvement of the quality of a human life!

    B. Cole

  2. Tom | Mar 7, 2006 | Reply

    I really enjoy reading your articles. Keep up the great work.

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