Wednesday, June 29, 2005

More Proof that Cloning Will Not Long Remain in the Petri Dish

One need only look at the cloning experiments already being conducted in animals to realize that human therapeutic cloning will not long be contained to using early cloned embryos in Petri dishes. This published paper by the biotechnologists at Advance Cell Technology involved "therapeutic cloning" with cows. Only they used stem cells taken from the liver of an aborted cloned fetus, not stem cells from an embryo. The paper also states better results are expected from a full liver transplant. Such experiments in humans have already been explicitly legalized in New Jersey. I may write more on this later.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Voluntary Amputation: The Future of Bioethics Thinking?

Bioethics ideology is generally relativist and roughly utilitarian. "Choice" is the keyword for "persons," e.g., those with sufficient cognitive capacity to possess what the rest of us call human rights. (Persons can be non humans in this thinking.) If one is not a person, however, they may not have the right to life or even, to bodily integrity. Recall my debate with biothicist Bill Allen when he said Michael Schiavo should have been able to consent to Terri's organs being harvested before she was actually dead.

A few bioethicists are so smitten by autonomy, that they are now promoting the notion that people obsessed with becoming amputees should be able to have healthy limbs cut off and willing physicians should be able to do it. This is not the mainstream view--yet. But given the nearly anything goes tide that sweeps bioethics discourse forward, it may only be a matter of time.

Friday, June 24, 2005

And Yet More Animal Liberation Terrorism

UK animal liberationists have commenced an arson campaign against companies that do business with Huntingdon Life Sciences. If the company is driven out of business by this tactic, not even McDonald's will be safe. And the silence from the "peaceful" animal rights believers is deafening.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

At Last: An Honest Cloning/Embryonic Stem Cell Research Proponent

James Thomson discovered human embryonic stem cells. In an interview, he makes several candid comments about the ongoing debate. One of the most important is set forth below. Dishonest cloning advocates are now claiming that therapeutic cloning does not create a human embryo or a human life, and that cloned embryos can never become babies. As Thomson notes below, this is garbage. (Note the clear desire of the interviewer to get Thomson to answer that there is a difference between therapeutic and reproductive cloning even though they involve the same procedure.)

"QUESTION: The people who use nuclear transfer generally say that the technique [somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning] is optimized for producing the stem cells rather than making babies. They would not want to equate this with the process that produces embryos that were fit for implantation, and they’d argue that they’re using the reproductive process differently …

ANSWER: See, you're trying to define it away, and it doesn't work. If you create an embryo by nuclear transfer, and you give it to somebody who didn't know where it came from, there would be no test you could do on that embryo to say where it came from. It is what it is.

It's true that they have a much lower probability of giving rise to a child. But by any reasonable definition, at least at some frequency, you're creating an embryo. If you try to define it away, you're being disingenuous.

More Animal Rights/Liberation Thuggery

In the UK a pharmaceutical company's stock broker had his car firebombed. So, he quit being the broker. This is the continuing pattern here and abroad. Stop businesses from humanely and properly using animals by intimidating, threatening, and attacking businesses and their personnel who have contractual or other business relations with the prime target. Once again, animal rights activists won't condemn this outrage. But they will complain when people opine that the movement is not peaceful.

Human Life Begins At Fertilization: That is Basic Biology

Much of the discussion about embryonic stem cell research and human cloning centers around when human life begins--as if that is a matter of opinion. I did some basic research and found that indeed, human life begins, biologically, at the completion of fertilization. That is simple, basic biology and embryology. Statements that it begins at implantation, or when the heart starts beating, or at birth, or at self consciousness, or whatever, are nothing but junk science and postmodern spin intended for use in winning political arguments.

Whether a human life in its earliest stages has actual meaning or value is not a question that can be answered by science. Rather, it is a matter of philosophy, values, morality, or religion, as Princeton's notorious Peter Singer, among others, note in today's New York Times. As to issues of morality and ethics, each of us has as much a right to an equal say as the most prestigious scientist or bioethicist Ph.D.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Mario Cuomo is All Wet

This bit of drivel from former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo published in yesterday's New York Times about the Bush embryonic stem cell research funding policy needs responding to. I'll do my best as soon as I dig out from the vacation backlog.

Terri Schiavo, RIP

My vacation was considerably soured by the release of the Schiavo autopsy results. Not the report itself: There wasn't much in it that surprised. It was the disgusting spin on the story by some who sought to use the report to further demagogue the story for political and partisan ends. But lest we forget, the federal attempt to have a de novo review of the case was bipartisan. All Democrats in the Senate went along, giving unanimous consent to the legislation. Moreover, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), deserves much credit for his dedicated work in helping pass the legislation. Had one senator refused to consent, the legislation would have died. In the House, about half the Democratic Caucus voted for the bill. This should be a source of pride, not shame, since it sought to protect the life of a defenseless human being. As he so often does, John Leo hit the right note about the autopsy report in his weekly U.S. News and World Report column.

In a new development, Michael Schiavo finally deigned to obey a court order and reveal where Terri is buried. Here is a photo of her tombstone. The inscription says so much to me about the character of Michael Schiavo and the attitudes he apparently shares with many toward people with profound disabilities.

According to the tombstone, Terri departed the world in 1990. No, she suffered a catastrophic injury that caused a profound disability. But she was no less a fully human and precious being because of it.

Second, it is worth recalling that Michael Schiavo didn't tell a medical malpractice jury in 1992 that she was morally equivalent to dead. But then, at the time he wanted a lot of money so he testified that Terri remained his beloved wife to whom he was and would thereafter be devotedly committed. Well, not quite. By then he had already "moved on," as it were. Moreover, he presented expert testimony that Terri would live a normal lifespan. It wasn't until the money was in the bank that Michael Schiavo remembered that Terri would rather be dead than disabled and began seeking that end by withholding antibiotics.

Third, if she is at peace now, which we all fervently hope, the way she was made to die certainly wasn't peaceful.

Finally, the "I kept my promise" line on the tombstone is a cruel and gratuitous dig at Terri's parents the Schindlers, a way of flipping them the bird every time they visit her grave. We shouldn't be surprised. Michael Schiavo frequently treated Terri as if he owned her, to the point that I half thought he would keep her ashes on his mantle as a trophy. It seems to me that this final insult directed at the Schindlers is along those lines.

Terri Schiavo, RIP: Terri is gone, her death a bitter and cruel injustice. But we must move on. So, barring the unforeseen, I will not be commenting further on the details of her case in the future. What is done, is done. What people think, they think, and no further sifting of the ashes or arguing will change minds.

The task now is to create humane policies that protect other profoundly disabled people from suffering Terri's fate and to promote public attitudes that value the full equality and worth of the lives of each and every one of us regardless of disability or illness. I presented some ideas toward these ends recently in the Weekly Standard.

One last point: We are in danger as a society of accepting the odious notion that there is such a thing as a life unworthy of life. True, the advocacy pushing us toward this end isn't generally steeped in the language of hate as it was when we ventured down this path before. But just because the lexicon of the culture of death and bioethics are often steeped in "compassion" and a supposed regard for individual autonomy, doesn't make these emerging attitudes less dangerous or insidious. Or to put it another way, actions speak louder than words.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Great Adult Stem Cell Article

Okay, the vacation hasn't quite started yet. This article by the splendid Michael Fumento describes why adult stem cells are so under-reported. He makes many good points. Definitely worth the read.

Now, I am on vacation.

Vacation Time

Secondhand Smoke will be on vacation until the week of June 19 for some badly needed R & R. Thank you for your interest in this Web Log.

California Assisted Suicide Bill Supplants Bill to Help Poor Patients

This is rich: Assembypersons Patty Berg and Lloyd Levine, desperately trying to save their misbegotten assisted suicide bill, have "gutted" a bipartisan bill (AB 651)that passed the Assembly to help poor people on Medi-CAL (Medicaid), and replaced it with their otherwise dead-as-a-doornail bill. So, the poor get slighted in favor of hastened death. How apt.

How The Supreme Court Medical Marijuana Decision Will Impact Assisted Suicide

As promised, here is my analysis of Gonzales v. Raich. I have read the entire decision and dissents. It seems to me that unless the court decides to be wildly inconsistent, or awards the win to Oregon based on a technical flaw in the way that Attorney General John Ashcroft sought to preclude the use of federally controlled substances in assisted suicide, then I can't see how the Supreme Court can rule that federal law can be enforced against users of medical marijuana, but not doctors who prescribe controlled substances for use in assisted suicide. I mean come on: Medical marijuana merely seeks to control symptoms but assisted suicide is intended to kill.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Medical Marijuana Decision Should Be Game, Set, and Match on Assisted Suicide Case

I have always believed strongly that the Ninth Circuit District and Court of Appeals were wrong in preventing the federal government from declaring that assisted suicide is not a legitimate medical use of federally controlled substances (e.g., narcotics), even in the face of the Oregon law legalizing assisted suicide. Now, with Gonzales v. Raich, it would seem that the Supreme Court of the United States is very likely to uphold the federal view as against the claim by Oregon that its right to regulate medical practice within state borders trumps federal regulation of the CSA. I hope to write a more detailed analysis soon.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Where is the Terri Schiavo Autopsy Report?

It has been more than two months. Inquiring minds want to know.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

California Assisted Suicide Bill Faltering But Not Deceased

But for the very undemocratic procedural moves that the rules of the California Assembly permit, AB 654, the assisted suicide legalization bill, would be dead and buried. Sigh. Well, it may be the legislative answer to Rasputin, but we'll keep working to put this turkey out if its misery. Thanks to all who kept it from passing the Assembly.