Monday, December 26, 2005

Ian Wilmut Wants to Experiment With Stem Cells on the Dying

Ian Wilmut, the creator of Dolly and now a would-be cloner of human embryos wants to experiment on dying people. Rather than go through the usual process of animal studies to test efficacy and safety, he wants to switch quickly to conducting embryonic stem cell experiments upon dying people on the basis that the experiments would be "high risk but high gain" procedures.

This has a certain surface attraction. After all, if people are dying, what's the harm? Well the harm could be substantial. First, unlike some experimental cancer treatments carried out on those dying of late stage disease to see if they can gain extra time, embryonic stem cells have not proven themselves to be "high gain" in animal studies yet. Therefore, it cannot be said whether or to what extent they would offer any real hope at all to the patient.

Second, it is quite possible if things go wrong, that they could increase the patient's suffering, perhaps causing brain cancer as one example mentioned in the story.

Third, we could fall headlong into the trap of looking upon our dying as so many guinea pigs, furthering the dehumanization that seems to go hand-in-hand with therapeutic cloning and ESCR research. Moreover, such a scheme would seem to violate agreed upon protocols for human medical experimentation.

Fourth, if the dying will not be with us for long enough to really test the procedures, who would be next on Wilmut's list? Those in persistent vegetative states? How about quadriplegics who would rather risk a brain tumor than live paralyzed? Once we begin down that road, we enter very dangerous territory.

Dying people are not dead: They are living. And they should be treated as fully equal and included members of the community. Using them in place of lab rats and potentially causing them great harm does quite the opposite, unless there is at least some realistic potential for therapeutic gain.


At December 27, 2005 , Blogger Mary Alice Phillips said...

I agree that this has real slippery slope potential. And I find it creepy that Ian Wilmut is the director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine. Just think about that!

At December 27, 2005 , Blogger CCEPDX said...

I think it is a good thing you are talking about this, but something that continues to bother me is that you don't seem open to considering that alteranatives to animal studies might give us better results. I checked out the Dr. Greek who has been arguing against animal studies and found it most curious that his point of departure is the same as yours: animals are not people. He goes on to say that using them to find cures for human diseases might be like taking a canoe to get there instead of a jet plane. I would like to see the research question opened up to the point that no one is being summarily dismissed and no one's sacred cows are being protected. The public would really benefit from such a discussion, imho.

At December 27, 2005 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Animal studies are definitely necessary in medical research. I have written some on this, articles available in my articles archives. Also in my book CULTURE OF DEATH.

As just one relevant example, we know that embryonic stem cells cause tumors, making them unsafe at present for human use. Why? Because we injected them into animals--mice mostly--and found out. That kind of information could not have found using cell lines or in computer models. It required the use of living body systems. That meant, it had to either be animals or humans.

Thanks for your continuing interest and contributions to Secondhand Smoke.

At December 28, 2005 , Blogger CCEPDX said...

I did read The Culture of Death and some of your articles. I don't dispute that animal studies are necessary, but I guess what I would like to see is more discussion on where lines might be drawn-and on where research on humans (voluntary, of course) might give better results. More nuanced discussion. It seems to me that people like Adrian Morrison just are not open to shining light into the rarefied atmoshere of the medical research establishment and I can't see that as all good. Part of it has to do with the fact that researchers have an ongoing relationship animal shelters that handle people's pets and this creates a conflict of interest and infringes on the public trust. The Animal Protection Institute's paper on pound seizure(avalable online) is instructive on this issue. I have encountered deceptive practices in our local shelters vis a vis the medical research establishment. And deception, whether perpetrated by a group like PETA-or by medical research suppliers, is a bad thing. Regarding animal issues: I do agree with you that animals have no God-given rights, but I hope you will not allow this terminology to be a conversation stopper when it comes to interesting and sincere and effective animal activists and shetler reformers such as Nathan Winograd and Becky Robinson at No Kill Solutions and Alley Cat Allies respectively. I think the real issue here is not "animal rights", but what is our responsibility toward animals?; when it comes to animal shelter issues, there are also people involved:pet owners. I think I might have recommended William Jordan's book:"Darwin; how a stray cat turned a man into a human being" before. He uses animal rights language to a degree, but is a well educated biologist and, in the intoduction, poses a question I consider important: "What is an extremist other than someone whose views are extremely different from yours. I think it is too easy to label whole groups of people extremists and then miss the subtle issues and questions. This is what people who want to hold on to power at any cost do.

At December 28, 2005 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At December 28, 2005 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

I don't think that human research should be expanded in order to use fewer animals, but I do believe we can continually look for ways to use fewer animals. That is a worthy issue, involving animal welfare views, as opposed to animal rights/liberation, that I support.

I reject the idea that people don't want to improve animal welfare approaches because we don't want to give up power. That concept falls into Ingrid Newkirk's idea of "supremicists," which is, frankly, baloney. Thanks again.

At December 29, 2005 , Blogger Sue Bob said...

Dying people deserve the opportunity to live the remainder of their lives to the fullest possible. How can they do that as the subject of experiments?

This guy is a materialist creep. It seems that, to him, the human body is just a machine to tinker with.

May God forgive him.

At December 30, 2005 , Blogger CCEPDX said...

Organizations and establishments start out with a mission, then the mission, over time, becomes self-preservation. This, I think, is fundamental and there is even a Biblical example: the church of Jesus' day ended up rejecting him because it started focusing on preserving the organizational status quo rather than on God. The medical research establishment is just another organization and some, at least, of the animal protocols are just routines that could be altered. I see Newkirk as a silly straw person. I just got a copy of an interesting book by Matthew Scully(a Bush speech writer): "Dominion: the power of man, the suffering of animals and a call for mercy", that appears to delve into these issues.

At December 30, 2005 , Blogger CCEPDX said...

And Sue Bob: NO WAY am I a materialist. And yielding to the tempation to be arrogant, Iwill say may God forgive you for your presumption and hero worship and not judge you as you are judging. I am not in Newkirk's camp.WJS puts words in my mouth. What I am saying is that there human institutions (including (gasp) the medical research establishment have a tendency to take on a life of their own and that there is a Christian responsibility toward the creation, including animals.

At December 30, 2005 , Blogger Sue Bob said...


I wasn't talking about you. I was talking about Ian Wilmut. Sorry that I obviously wasn't clear about that.

At January 01, 2006 , Blogger CCEPDX said...

Thanks Sue bob, sorry if I overreacted. And WJS, I maybe wasn't clear enough that I was talking about the institutional power of the medical research establishment, not the power of people over animals, which I have always considered a "no brainer".
I agree with you that both Newkirk and Singer have faulty thinking and that they have influence too many people. But lots of people see through them, too, I think. I just wish people wouldn't try to lump all people who advocate for animals into one heap-and put a terrorist stamp on it. That sounds kinda like a slippery slope, too.
Regarding materialism, I think those who attribute no material properties to the human body,like the Christian Scientists, don't believe in medicine.
It just seems to me that the professions, including medicine, involve high degrees of research, just in day-to day practice. Seek treatment for a chronic condition like depression or diabetes and it may take months to find the right conbination of treatments, dosages etc. that work for your individual organism. And I have heard of dying people who agreed to experimental treatment because time was running out and got better or were cured. It seems to me that Adrian Morrison is on a mission to silence Dr. Greek, the guy who argues against animal research for the National Antivivisectionst Society,among others, but he raises some interesting questions and I think we would benefit if we had a real debate. Some experimentation on people-like sleep studies for which the participants are paid-seem to have no negative side effects and actually benefit, not only science generally, but individuals. Dr. Greek talks about vested interests in the medical research establishment. WJS and his work with Nader usually explore this angle; he also understands the trouble with straw opposition and MSM. I am just trying to bring that perspective to the animal research question, because animal policy is something I know and care about.

At January 01, 2006 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

I don't lump them all together. But it is also incumbent upon animal activists to enegetically distinguish themselves from the violent whackos. After all, it is their cause that is being harmed.

At January 11, 2006 , Blogger OnDeathsDoor said...

You said it "dying people are not dead" so stop talking about them as if they can't make this decision for themselves. It should be up to them, but it's not, because too many people with absolutely no idea what it is like to face a slow, agonizing and certain death, keep debating, and regulating a potential cure out of their reach.
You all need to get over yourselves and let the human animals have a choice!


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