Posting in Government
The problem could be gone by October 1, but the law which resulted in this ruling was stupid to begin with and there is a lesson in that.
In fact scientists should be cheering, because what we have here is a teachable moment.
Lamberth based his ruling on the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, an appropriations rider first passed in 1995, long before stem cell research had proven its value.
It was passed during the "Contract with America" Congress, and was one of a number of bills aimed at placating various Republican interests, in this case social conservatives.
The rider was forgotten starting in 1999, when an attorney for the Department of Health and Human Services decided it didn't apply to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It was then (supposedly) superseded by a Bush Administration decision in 2001 to allow limited funding on a few lines of stem cells. President Obama "overturned" that decision last year, allowing expanded research.
Only what Judge Lamberth is saying here is, "no you didn't." His ruling, in fact, overturns even President Bush's 2001 order. All U.S. government funding for research on embryonic stem cells is halted by the preliminary injunction. The NIH has already complied while the decision is appealed.
So how is this good news? Two reasons.
- Dickey-Wicker is an appropriations rider. It has to be passed every year to remain effective. This Congress has done, without giving it much thought, but now the problem can simply go away by Congress not re-authorizing it, or the President vetoing a bill containing such a re-authorization. The "problem" could be gone by October 1.
- Dickey-Wicker was a stupid law to begin with. It was passed in ignorance, based on religious prejudice, and even conservative Republicans have since rejected its premise.
Asian countries are already taking advantage of the Lamberth decision. Stem cells are now proven technology. The plaintiffs in this case were trying to gain a monopoly for themselves (working only with adult stem cells) in this area of research. The "harm" they claimed was competition for grants.
It's true that there has been successful research done with adult stem cells. There is hope for treatments in the areas of Huntington's Disease, Parkinson's, even depression.
But that doesn't mean research should be restricted based on one group's religion or morality. Nebraska is still reeling from an effort last year to step away from the Obama policy and go back to that of Bush (which as I note has now been overturned).
Science has created a multi-billion dollar industry around stem cell research and cures, since the Dickey-Wicker amendment was passed. At a time of 10% unemployment Americans are not going to turn their backs on that.
The lesson should be clear. Don't pass laws against research when you don't know what the result might be. You are displaying ignorance and neo-Luddism when you do that, and voters should take note. Willful ignorance needs to pay a political price.
Aug 25, 2010
It should not be an issue of disagreement that Dana Blankenhorn is not, and should not be a scientist. Logical fallacies and manipulative distortions not only make for bad science, but also bad journalism. We can all look at the same facts, but with a lot of creative wordsmithing (better known as intellectual dishonesty) we can make black look white and in this case make life look like non-life. You should go into sports writing Dana. That way your opinions do not require any basis in facts.
Dana, You should learn something about MHCs and transplant rejection before you go around touting ESCs as a panacea. The truth is that only ASCs have proven to be useful. ESCs have not. (Perhaps you know this, which is why you are careful to state, "[s]tem cells are proven technology," conveniently leaving off the "adult" adjective that belongs there.) The science is clear, but you want us to waste money on what is literally a dead-end technology. Why??? I can only surmise that you have an ideological axe to grind, and that you desperately wish for an excuse to diminish the perception among the majority of Americans that life is sacred from the moment of conception. You neglect to report that Asians are only working on ESCs, hoping they can overcome the immune system and get them to work, because America, thanks to Dickey-Wicker, has such a large lead on ASCs. We are about to throw that lead away (thanks to ignorant ideologues like you and thanks to selfish scientists who want to work on ESCs). Consequently thousands of Americans will suffer and die needlessly, not to mention the loss of money to our country from charging foreigners for the ASC treatments which will now not be developed due to funding wasted on ESCs.
Mr. Blankenhorn, your supervisor must perform a due diligence evaluation of your qualifications to write for this enterprise. 1) You repeatedly refuse to distinguish between "embryonic stem cell research" and "stem cell research", thereby reinforcing in the minds of many the erroneous assumption that your bogeyman, the "religious right", is opposed to all stem cell research. Either you are unable to appreciate that the distinction is absolutely critical, in which case your qualifications to write respectable opinions for this journal are suspect, or you knowingly misrepresent the understanding of those whom you oppose, in which case it is clear that you are writing not from science but from partisanship. 2) "If an egg is a person ..." Who on the "religious right" has ever suggested anything remotely resembling that view? You are so laughably prone to erecting such obvious straw men that even those who agree with you must cringe. And yes, you must be aware that most chemical contraceptives are formulated both to inhibit fertilization AND to inhibit implatation if fertilization does occur, which makes them designedly abortifacient. Or, perhaps you are not aware, in which case, see my opening comment. 3) "If fertilization confers person-hood ..." Only if the egg being fertilized comes from a "person". I'm not sure many people would characterize chickens as persons. Fertilizing a sponge egg confers sponge-hood on it, but probably not person-hood. Besides the fact that most of the restaurants I frequent even charge different prices for different chicken dishes and different omelots, the relevant criterion in evaluating the morality of chicken dinners is that it is permissible to kill and eat an egg for the same reason that it is permissible to kill and eat a grown chicken: it's a chicken. And it is wrong deliberately to kill a human embryo for the same reason it is wrong deliberately to kill a grown human: it's a human being. You deliberately emphasize irrelevant distinctions and ignore relevant distinctions. Is this because you don't know the difference, or because you already know what you want and you only marshal the distinctions that support what you want? Which is what we all like so much about impartial scientific observers.
Dana - I think George W Bush allowed it for already existing lines, a very pragmatic course which many conservatives would say defines him more than conservative.
Research has shown that 60-75% of fertilized eggs fail to implant or spontaneously abort before a woman even knows she could be pregnant. If we apply that same percentage to embryos from in vitro fertilization there are plenty of them left over for stem cell research.
I don't know what you're talking about, unless you wish to treat every first semester miscarriage as the subject of a murder investigation. If an egg is a person, then even contraception is murder. If fertilization confers person-hood then we should have a lot of people getting charged for chicken dinners when they order an omelet. This idea was sort of settled when the Bush Administration took its "conservative" stance limiting research into stem cells. Unless you wish to call George W. Bush a baby-killer.
The reason I wrote what I did was because the Bush Administration -- which most say was a conservative Republican Administration -- allowed for some funding on some stem cell lines. The Lamberth decision would invalidate even that. Thus, I concluded most see the law as stupid, since both sides of the political fence have since moved to allow more stem cell research than Dickey-Wicker did, which was none. And, as I noted, it was a Clinton Administration lawyer whose opinion Lamberth was specifically invalidating -- so you have three Administrations all in agreement on the subject. What can I call that but consensus?
"Dickey-Wicker was a stupid law to begin with. It was passed in ignorance, based on religious prejudice, and even conservative Republicans have since rejected its premise." Wow, thanks Dana for making your bias clear and obfuscating "stem cell" research without distinguishing between the proven results with adult and umbilical cord stem cells verses embryonic and also leaving out any mention of the advances in ASC which many scientists believe makes the morally reprehensible practice of killing embryos quite unnecessary. BTW I wasn't aware your column was an op-ed piece. I'll keep that in mind for the future.
Yes we follow science. No, that does not give us an excuse to kill people whenever we want. For example, I cant say, "I need to study the human hear for biology, I'll go kill someone and look at theirs." If you are saying this is okay, maybe I should study your heart.
In this case you can solve the problem by simply stripping the language from the next authorization. If the President is committed to the cause, he just promises to veto the next authorization with the language. The 2011 fiscal year starts in October. And even most Republicans are no longer in agreement on that Dickey-Wicker language. Heck, I doubt even Wicker would be adverse to a change.
I'm with you on this one, Dana, the whole concept of stemcell research needs to looked at and better statutes written. The welfare of everyone should be taken into account, not just the religious right.
The reason we're America is because we follow science, and compete, rather than finding excuses for why we shouldn't play.
But that doesn?t mean research should be restricted based on one group?s religion or morality. Anyone played Bioshock? A world where science can advance without worrying about those pesky morals. Also, @above. Comparing this to organ transplants is completely incorrect. The proper comparison is that I shoot somebody and take their heart because mine is not working right. This is more proper, because I am taking a life without asking or being given permission.
The idea that morality shouldn't matter in making decisions about research is ridiculous. Of course it does. Much of the data we have on the effect of extreme cold on humans comes from research done by Hitler's doctors on Jews. It was very methodically and scientifically done, and it's very useful data. But was it worth the torture and the human lives lost? On what basis do you make this decision that does not involve some sense of morality? I happen to believe that when embryonic stem cells are harvested a human life is not lost. But I also believe the question of when human life begins is far from settled in our society. To me some of the arguments on the other side seem simple-minded, but they deserve to be heard. The people advocating them have a voice in our society. The principle is that they may win the day because on another issue on another day we may find ourselves the minority without a voice.
The gods state that the human animal does not have the right to share any of its parts including the embryos used for stem cell research. Ok, then what should be done when it comes to the transplanting of other human organs? Look how many hearts, kidneys, livers, etc., etc., etc. have been taken from one human animal and replanted in another. If the court order Monday barring the government from funding the research because it involves the destruction of embryos is to be obeyed then we must also consider banning these other transplants as they too were first tried and failed thereby resulting in the killing of these other human animal parts as well. How can it be that that which was once a sin is now an acceptable thing? None of this should be allowed. Americans unite and force us all back to living the lives of say, those Al Qaida folks, who seem to think that the 12th century had the correct lifestyles where the males controlled the females totally and there was no sinning like this current research is. Oh, but then again this idea may be a dumb one because we would not be able to take back all of those guns and other weapons most of us like to use today. How can it be that so many want to kill in so many ways as long as these killing are supported by some religious belief but block the non-harming life developments such as those seemingly available via stem cell research which their religions cannot understand or even want to? The human animal is certainly a dumb one!
Rejecting stem cell research is just sick and twisted. It's something that could save and improve the lives of millions upon millions of people in the world, and yet some stupid, misguided extremists feel that it is against their twisted rules of morality to save small clusters of embryonic cells over the millions of people who suffer and die from potentially preventable and curable diseases. The ignorance and hypocrisy is astounding.