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Stem cell research vs. “Laboratory bailout” September 23, 2009

Posted by Sanity in Politics, research, science.
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Everyone has probably heard enough about embryonic stem cell research to wonder if it will provide a cure to the symptoms we get on any subject that has been pushed and pushed and pushed.  After listening to a podcast of David Barton’s program from sometime in February 2009, I wanted to focus on two interesting points brought up.

First is the rhetoric of “cure all” promises sold to us on any stem cell research.  Now, G. W. Bush did not ban embryonic stem cell research.  He banned federal funding of ‘harvesting’ new embryos for their stem cells.  Laboratories already had plenty of material to do research on.  But out of that material and research on adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells has not produced any benefits that adult stem cells have not provided.  Also, the dangers of stem cell research are not publicized.  According to the show, Fox was the only station that publicized the results of a particular case that cause tumors in a human subject from a stem cell experiment.  This is not a new area of “safe science” that has no side effects or failed experiments.

The second point was implied that the motivation for the research funding is a form of another “bailout”.  Many laboratory jobs, or research jobs, are affected by the economy as well.  Now I disagreed with the magnitude of motives behind wanting this particular funding or the lack of guarantee on results.  Research IS very important and cannot be eliminated, even during a recession, but one does have to accept that there are limited resources.  Just because funding could go up during economic high points, it does not mean we are obligated to “socialize” research and guarantee those jobs.

In the end, I believe the fight for/against the use of embryos needs to be dropped completely.  With all “value of life” arguments aside, I suspect the motivator is seen as acquiring of embryos can be a “hidden” or minimal cost compared to the equivalent of organ donation or volunteer test subjects.  I have no problem with ethical science.  If ethical lines are blurred to cut costs or for convenience, then I would fight for the side of caution and improvement of methods and not allow the easy way out since embryos can’t speak for themselves yet.