Guest Column: Stem cell research funding: A safe alternative ignored

As usual, nothing prevents ignorance and misinformation from masking itself in ethical and humane terms.

Numerous articles have been published in the media citing Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and Comptroller Dan Hynes (D) as being right, and, of course, President George W. Bush (R) for being wrong on a hotly-debated moral and ethical issue—the use of embryos—the tiniest form of a human being—as a hope for curing a variety of incurable diseases.

The subject of stem cell research is usually distorted by the media, certain vocal politicians and movie notables creating the following three strikingly erroneous impressions:

1. That the human embryo is not really human and has no right to continue living;

2. That stem cells taken from human embryos represent a dazzling promise for combating a multitude of diseases; and

3. That there are no alternative stem cell therapies that would offer similar hope.

Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Human life is not a “commodity” whereby a human embryo can be destroyed to use its content in dubious scientific research. The hope that unenlightened, non-scientists speak of has yet to be realized, as this form of cloning and stem cell research has produced absolutely no cures, but instead is rejected by the recipient’s immune system and often forms tumors and other biological complications.

In contrast, discoveries in the use of a variety of “adult” stem cells and cells found in umbilical cord blood has already produced outstanding success and authentic results in diseases such as the following: brain, ovarian, testicular, breast and Merkel cell cancers; diabetes type 1; acute lymphoblastic, myelogenous and juvenile myelomancytic leukemias; Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins lymphoma; stroke and heart damage; Parkinson’s disease; spinal cord injury; corneal regeneration; limb gangrene; multiple sclerosis; Crohn’s disease; rheumatoid and juvenile arthritis; systemic lupus; sickle cell, sideroblastic, aplastic, Fanconi’s and diamond blackfan anemia; multiple myeloma; myelodysplasia, neuroblastoma; scleromyxedema; polychondroitis; systemic vasculitis; Sjoren’s syndrome; Behcet’s disease; myasthenia; red cell aplasia; autoimmune cytopenia; thalassemia; Sandhoff disease; primary amyloidosis; surface wound healing; soft tissue sarcoma; various solid tumors—and the list goes on.

There is no record of anyone benefiting from human embryonic stem cell therapies after 20 years of research. Then why are a host of uninformed celebrities and media people pumping up the public relations machine for the unethical and immoral use of embryos in stem cell research? As Dr. Ronald McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, puts it: “People need a fairy tale…they need a storyline that’s relatively simple to understand.”

Dr. Peter Hollands, a stem cell biologist from Cambridge University, has said, “If we focused more time and funding on collecting umbilical cord blood from most births and storing the samples in a public bank, there would then be a suitable match for almost everyone.”

I would urge Illinois taxpayers to reject any appropriations for $15 million to the Department of Public Health from the Tobacco Settlement Recovery Fund, which will be used exclusively for stem cell research, including human embryos and cloning, pursuant to the governor’s executive order. Instead, insist the funds be allocated to proven adult stem research and that the “fairy tale” of embryonic stem cell research be exposed for what it is: Junk Science!

Resource “Do No Harm,” The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics,

Arlene Sawicki is an anti-abortion, pro-family activist who lives in South Barrington, Ill.

From the July 5-11, 2006, issue

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