Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Haleigh Poutre Second Opinion

It appears that Haleigh, the 11-year-old girl who was beaten nearly to death and then deprived of the right to fight for life by court-sanctioned removal of her feeding tube, may have a second chance. She will be reexamined to measure her current apparent responsiveness.

But be warned: Just because she may be conscious, that does not mean she won't be dehydrated to death. Conscious cognitively disabled patients are dehydrated all over the country. I will have more on this soon. But it is important to understand that removing tube-supplied food and water is not limited to those diagnosed as permanently unconscious.

Adult Stem Cells Treating Arthritis in Animals

This is potential good news for people with arthritis. In animal studies, muscle stem cells have been converted into cartilage and used to treat arthritis. As the person who sent this item to me put it only slightly tongue in cheek: "Perhaps the NYT should be notified. But then, they would 'neutrally' report a 'stem cell success', followed by a Bush-bashing statement about how 'stem cell research' is not being funded." Too true. Too true.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Doubts About Transhumanism Transcend Political Ideology

This article from The Guardian (a leftist UK newspaper) is an intelligent, if relatively shallow, discussion of transhumanism. The author discusses issues such as drugs to enhance cognition and what it might mean if parents gave such medicines to their children to aid in learning.

I don't have principled objections to such medicines, assuming safety and proper use; for example, to treat dementia. However, it would seem to be potential child abuse to give such strong medicines that could have unknown impact on the brain to children when we could not possibly know their potential long term side effects.

That issue aside, the biggest problem I have with transhumanism is its hubristic conceit that we have the wisdom to decide which human attributes are better than other human attributes, and that we should design in the former and eradicate the latter. More arrogantly, transhumanists believe we should "seize control of human evolution" and change our progeny at the genetic level so that the parental dictated "enhancements" pass down the generations. This is nothing less than the resurrection of a new eugenics and the emergence of scientism as a new religion, complete with an eschatology akin to a corporeal New Jerusalem.

I have written in some detail about this, and discussed the eugenics potential of transhumanism in Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World.

Free the Finned 50,000!

Animal rights activists are suspected of having "liberated" 50,000 farmed fish in the UK. What a pathetic joke. With all the human misery in the world, one would think these fanatics would have something more important to care about than fish being raised for release into a resevoir where many would eventually be caught and fried up for dinner. This is a small, but telling, illustration of how truly twisted many in the animal liberation movement have become.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

More Cloning Gibberish in the Media

The Associated Press continues the junk reporting that is endemic in the mainstream media about human cloning. This time, in referring to a legal dispute in Missouri about the title of a planned initiative that would legalize human cloning for biomedical research, but which contends in its title that it actually bans human cloning, the AP reported:

"At issue is a research procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, in which the nucleus of an unfertilized human egg is replaced with the nucleus from a skin or nerve cell, then is stimulated to grow in a lab dish. The microscopic cluster of cells [more accurately, an embryo] is not implanted into a woman's uterus, but opponents say it still amounts to human cloning."

The highlighted sentence comes to you direct from pro-cloning spin central. It strongly implies that the act of cloning is implantation. But that is nonsensical. Cloning is a word, that in this context, refers to the creation of a new human organism through asexual means, e.g., somatic cell nuclear transfer. Implantation merely permits an existing embryo to be sustained further into development. Thus, that act cannot in any way be construed to be cloning.

But the political campaign to legalize human cloning in Missouri has redefined the term to win a political campaign and the compliant media merely parrots the pro-cloning party line. This is the same media, by the way, which wails and moans so loudly about the supposed destruction of science in America. Yet, in this story, it could care less about scientific accuracy in reporting.

(Full disclosure: I have informally and without charge consulted with Missourians Against Human Cloning and their attorneys in the litigation mentioned above.)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Researching for Dollars

More evidence that science is becoming a special interest: Governor Matt Blunt of Missouri wants to spend $300 million of taxpayer's money on biotechnology. But this is the same Governor Blunt who cut Medicaid so deeply that feeding tubes may not be covered in some cases. Priorities, Governor, Please!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Haleigh Poutre Moved to Rehab Center

Rather than being dehydrated to death, 11-year-old Haleigh Poutre is being moved to a rehabilitation center where she will receive care to maximize her capacities. Haleigh was beaten nearly to death by her mother and step father last September, suffering a catastrophic brain injury. The state guardian got the Massachusetts Supreme Court to order both her respirator and tube-supplied food and fluids terminated. But Haleigh unexpectedly breathed on her own and seemed to react. She now has a chance for life.

I will say it again: We need to reconsider the issue of food and fluids as just another medical treatment. Removing nutrition will result in death. As Haleigh proved, this is not always true of other forms of care. Therefore, we should be loath to remove medically appropriate "artificial nutrition and hydration," barring a written advanced directive or clear and convincing evidence that it would be in the patient's best medical interest. In other words, we should never decide that someone else's "quality of life" is such that we won't even permit them to have food and water.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ralph Nader's Mother has Died

My good friend Ralph Nader is grieving the loss of his mother, Rose Nader, who died of congestive heart failure just days short of her 100th birthday.

Mrs. Nader was a pure delight. She always had smile on her face and a kind word on her lips. Her deep love for family was clearly evident to all who saw her interact with her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It was even more clear from the intensity of love they all gave back to her.

Mrs. Nader's life and accomplishments are worth pausing to remember. A high school teacher, she immigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1925 after marrying Nathra Nader. The couple eventually settled in Winsted, Connecticut where they ran a successful restaurant and raised their four children: Shafeek, Claire, Laura, and Ralph.

The Naders instilled in their children a deep love of country and a sense of duty to participate in civic affairs. Shafeek Nader (who died in 1986) was the principal founder of Northwestern Connecticut Community College. Claire Nader is a Ph.D. In addition to being Mrs. Nader's primary care giver in recent years, she has been deeply involved in foundation and educational work, including heading the anti-human cloning organization, The Council for Responsible Genetics. Laura Nader is an internationally renowned anthropologist and professor at UC Berkeley. Ralph Nader founded the consumer movement and is a former presidential candidate.

Rose Nader lived a great life. The world is better for her having been among us. She epitomized the American Dream.

More on Weakening of Hippocratic Oath

This is the AMA's Declaration of Professional Responsibility. It too has removed crucial and specific patient protections and replaced them with platitudes and vague terms, the meaning of which can vary from physician to physcian. I plan to write a more extended piece on the undermining of the Oath and what it might portend. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Media Bias? What Media Bias?

This on-line headline in The Telegraph for a woman who traveled to Switzerland to kill herself takes the cake. "Doctor Dies With Dignity." Swallowing poison pills is "dignity," meaning I guess, that dying naturally is something else. This is really an insidious message that undermines the value of human life.

Loma Linda University Also Has Weakened the Hippocratic Oath

I received a strong reaction to the post about Cornell Medical School weakening the Hippocratic Oath. Today, I heard from a LLU alumnus, concerned about the LLU Medical School's weakening of the Oath. It purports to be a Christian version (no swearing to Apollo, etc., which is appropriate). Unfortunately, the LLU Physician's Oath doesn't just contain pabulum, but could also turn out to be applied in an anti-patient manner in some cases:

This is the provision I have the most concern about: "Acting as a good steward of the resources of society and of the talents granted me, I will endeavor to reflect God's mercy and compassion by caring for the lonely, the poor, the suffering, and those who are dying."

This provision does away entirely with the doctor having his or her sole duty to the wellbeing and health of the patient. It seems to place a dual mandate on doctors, to husband resources first, as he or she cares for patients. Indeed, this statement would seem to justify health care rationing, thereby placing the swearing doctor into a potential conflict of interest with his/her most ill, elderly, or disabled (most expensive) patients.

This is not to say, of course, that it is wrong for physicians to be concerned about proper use of resources. They should be. But not at the expense of the proper care of the individual patient, to whom physician should owe the highest duty of loyalty as an individual. Dual mandates, if you will, are dangerous precisely because resource management could easily come to trump the patient. The clause would also justify imposition of Futile Care Theory, (aka, medical futility).

"I will maintain the utmost respect for human life. I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity. I will respect the rights and decision of my patients."

Well, this is a complete cop out. Why not explicitly promise not to kill patients, regardless of what the "laws of humanity" might state? In the Netherlands, the law will soon permit the active infanticide of disabled and terminally ill infants. Under this oath, a doctor could comply and not be in violation. After all, the Dutch doctors who commit infanticide state they do so because they respect the humanity of the patients they kill, who they claim, do not have "livable lives."

"I will lead my life and practice my art with purity, and honor; abstaining from immorality myself, I will not lead others into moral wrong doing."

This replaces the promise not to have sexual relations with patients. Since it comes from a presumably conservative Christian context, it may pass muster. But absent that, it is entirely vague. Why be coy?

I would be interested in other examples of modern medical oaths. This trend to do away with robust patient protection is alarming, to say the least.

It Looks Like Arnold Would Not Sign a Bill Legalizing Assisted Suicide in California

These quotes from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger about assisted suicide, according to Reuters:

"I personally think that this is a decision probably that should go to the people, like the death penalty, or other big issues. I don't think that we -- 120 legislators and I -- should make the decision.."


"It's irrelevant what I think about this because I would never want to force my opinion on something like that."

California had an initiative to legalize euthanasia/assisted suicide in 1992. It began with 70% or so support in the polls and lost 54-46%.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Investigating Decision to Remove Feeding Tube

Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts intends to investigate the decision by the MA Supreme Court to permit the public guardian to remove the feeding tube from a 12-year-old abuse victim named Haleigh Poutre. She is now, apparently, reacting to her environment (not that I believe reactivity should be a requirement to receive food and water).

And let there be no complaints by those who believe cognitively disabled people should be dehydrated, about the "state" imposing its views on family. This was a decision pushed by the state through a public guardian, and approved by a court.

By all means: Investigate. And let us hope that the conclusion is reached that food and water should not be removed from people based solely on "quality" of life considerations in the wake of a catastrophic brain injury.

Combating Cloning Lies in Iowa

I don't claim a monopoly on wisdom about the issues about which I advocate (some would say, obsess). But I can't stand it when advocates just lie in support of their position. I have blogged on Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's false assertions that advances in cloning medical treatments require a change in Iowa's ban on all human cloning. But I thought it needed further analysis. Here it is, from today's Daily Standard.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Cornell Medical School Turns Hippocratic Oath to (Mostly) Pabulum

Cornell Medical School has rewritten the Hippocratic Oath. Gone is the proscription against abortion. No surprise there: Foreswearing that particular act was discarded from the Oath decades ago (although it is interesting how recent newspaper stories report that few doctors today are willing to perform abortions).

Now, Cornell has also erased the prohibition against assisted suicide ("I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.) Killing is not a medical act. Hippocrates understood that. Moreover, putting that power in the hand of a doctor is to give the doctor too much power, given the reliance patients place in their physicians. Hippocrates understood that, too.

The new oath doesn't even require doctors to foreswear sexual relations with patients, another form of potential abuse and imposition. Illustrating the difference between the rich patient-protecting orientation of the original and the mostly non-specific pablum of the Cornell version, compare Hippocrates with Cornell:

Hippocrates: "Whatever houses I may visit, I will come for the benefit of the sick, remaining free of all intentional injustice, of all mischief and in particular of sexual relations with both female and male persons, be they free or slaves." The clear call here is active, requiring doctors never to act in a way that would take advantage of patients, with one specific example, e.g. sexual relations.

Cornell: "That into whatever house I shall enter, it shall be for the good of the sick. [Forget for the moment that most doctors don't make house calls.] That I will maintain this sacred trust, holding myself far aloof from wrong, from corrupting, from the tempting of others to vice." This is a far more passive and vague approach. What does holding oneself "aloof from wrong" mean, anyway? Indeed, what does "tempting others to vice" mean in the context of today's anything goes society?

I do appreciate this addition to the Oath, however: "That I will not withdraw from my patients in their time of need." Never abandoning patients is an important part of being a professional.

Cornell's oath is a pale comparison to the great original. It contains few specifics. It is wide-open to any interpretation any doctor may wish to place upon it.

What a shame. The Oath is seen by patients as a significant protection of their interests. When I tell audiences that few physicians take the Oath anymore, but instead recite watery facimiles, primarily as a "rite of passage" (as described in the Cornell press office story), they always gasp in unhappy shock.

This latest rewrite continues this sad decline.

Assisted Suicide: Consider the Deadly Context

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in Gonzales v. Oregon, I have a piece in today's San Francisco Chronicle addressing the context in which assisted suicide would be conducted. Context can be everything, and in a regime of legalized assisted suicide, it would be deadly.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Truth in Advertising

The old photo posted on the site was about 6 years old, so I have updated it with one taken about 2 months ago. I am so middle aged! How did that happen?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Another Fraudulent Scientific Paper

This time, in the Lancet. It would seem that the current methods of peer review definitely need reviewing.

Comments about Gonzales v. Oregon from Dr. Eric Chevlen

My co-author of Power Over Pain wrote me an interesting note about the recent SCOTUS opinion on assisted suicide: "I began to read the Gonzales decision last night. I noticed something very interesting in the first few paragraphs of the majority opinion. It refers to Oregon as being "the first" state to legalize PAS. I would have written "the only" rather than "the first." The latter formulation carries a tacit expectation that more will follow...I think that that choice of words revealed the heart's desire in Justice Kennedy's heart. He also refers to the CSA controlled substances in question as being used, in lower doses, to treat pain. The fact is that nearly 100% of the people who die via PAS die from an overdose of barbiturates, not of opioids. Barbiturates are not analgesic. Thus is another myth perpetuated."

This would substantiate my suspicion that the decision was somewhat result-oriented. It also demonstrates that the courts (and media) are often wrong on basic facts.

Another Case of Bad Reportage

I am quoted in this Christian Science Monitor story about the Supreme Court assisted suicide decision. What irritates is that I pointed out this Pew Poll result to the reporter who interviewed me, noting that to support and opposition to assisted suicide was evenly divided 46-45%. (I blogged this poll a few days ago.) Instead of citing the poll question about assisted suicide, which would have been accurate, the reporters instead cited a different question about the "right to die," which was defined in the poll as the right to remove unwanted life support--a completely different issue. They noted 84% support.

But this question is irrelevant to the subject of the story, and seemed designed to rebut my assertion that the assisted suicide movement has been moribund. In other words, they cited the wrong poll number, making it appear that assisted suicide is far more popular than it actually is.

Clueless or biased? You decide.

It's Not Over 'Till It's Over

This story demonstrates why we should be very wary of removing feeding tubes. An eleven year-old little girl named Denise Monteiro was apparently beaten by her step-father. She was diagnosed as PVS. Doctors said she would never improve. The court ordered her removed from respirator and tube feeding. She breathed on her own and apparently is beginning to respond. New tests have been ordered.

Whether or not Denise improves, it seems to me she should not be removed from food and water, based solely on her cognitive capacity. Nutritional termination can only have one result: Death. As a consequence, I believe the decision to withdraw or withhold such care should be treated differently than other such decisions. Benefits of doubt should go to providing nutritional sustenance. Indeed, in my view, absent clear written instructions by the patient or the presence of other urgent medical issues, dehydration should never be done based on the decisions of others, particularly if they are steeped in quality of life considerations about the lack of a life worth living.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

More Bad News From Korea: This Time About Umb. Cord Blood Experiment

The woman who was paralyzed for 19 years and had partial movement and feeling restored through umbilical cord blood stem cells has had a terrible setback. The story says it was an infection, but it also appears that she may be the victim of unethical human experimentation. The bottom line: Today she is worse off than she was before receiving the experimental treatments.

This brings up an important point I try to adhere to: I always point out that one apparent successful treatment does not a cure make. I have said this about Dennis Turner, who apparently received a substantial remission from Parkinson's with his own brain cells. I said so about this woman. These are early experiments. The promise seems real. But we must not hype adult stem cells in the way proponents of cloning and ESCR have too often hyped those approaches.

The First Calls Are Heard for Robert Klein's Head

Robert Klein, the primary mover behind Proposition 71, made a big mistake by becoming the head of the California Center for Regenerative Medicine. Now, he is in growing political trouble. The Center is beset with problems, including lawsuits and a distinct tendency toward arrogance and hubris. Now, the Center for Genetics and Society, a liberal group involved with biotechnology, is calling on Klein to step down. The Center is right. But he won't. And that will be to the benefit of those who oppose Proposition 71.

Gonzales v. Oregon: Much Less Than Meets the Eye

The media is touting Gonzales v Oregon as some huge victory for assisted suicide. It is a victory for that agenda, I admit, but not a big one. As I noted yesterday, the ruling was quite narrow and all of the puffing and spinning in the world won't change that. Besides, I don't see people marching in the street demanding that doctors be given the right to kill their suicidal patients. My prediction (and I am usually right in such matters, but not always), is that this opinion will only have a mild impact on the debate.

For my extended views, read my article on National Review Online.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Constitutional Right to Clone

I have been warning anyone who will listen, that the intellectual foundation is being laid to create a constitutional right to conduct scientific research. A new book, Illegal Beings, is touted by its publisher as advocating something akin to that approach. Specifically, the book argues that there is a constitutional right to engage in reproductive cloning.

Science has entered upon a trajectory of anything goes. The primary question thus becomes: Does society have the will to properly regulate science? We had better. Otherwise, science will dominate society.

Gonzales v. Oregon a Very Narrow Ruling

I have now read the majority opinion. It wasn't judicial activism. Indeed, the Supreme Court's majority decision is not a broad endorsement of assisted suicide. In essence, the Court ruled that the Attorney General exceeded his authority in interpreting the Controlled Substances Act. Primarily, the AG is criticized for seeking no outside authorities for his conclusion. I think that is a strong criticism of the Ashcroft approach. I have always stated that the better way would have been to do a formal Notice of Rulemaking and get a wide array of opinions. The Court also seemed to indicate that an interpretation of a purported medical use of controlled substance should come from the Secretary of Health and Human Services, rather than the AG.

The Court also seemed to rule that the Congress would be authorized to create uniform national standards for the medical use of controlled substances. That has been tried with the Pain Relief Promotion Act a few years ago, which failed to surmount a senate filibuster.

The forces supporting assisted suicide will spin this as the Court's imprimatur on doctors hastening death. It is no such thing. It is a narrowly crafted law steeped in the arcania of administrative law.

On Mike Gallagher Show Tomorrow

I usually don't post my media appearances, as many are regional and I don't want to clutter up the site with such notices. But for anyone who might be interested, I will be on the nationally syndicated Mike Gallagher Show tomorrow, at about 8 WST.

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Oregon

The vote was 6-3. I haven't read the decision, but it appears from this early news report, that the Court has ruled that the Feds have no right to implement its own public policy against prescribing controlled substances to kill people if those who want to die are very sick. How ironic. The Feds can go after medical marijuana users, when that drug is used to palliate suffering. But it can't go after doctors who prescribe controlled substances to intentionally kill. Here is a link to the majority opinion. Here is a link to Scalia's dissent. And Thomas's dissent.

This is just another way of saying that human life doesn't matter simply because it is human, but that it matters only when the life in question passes quality of life muster. Thus, under this line of thinking, if a state legalized, say, the prescription of controlled substances for suicide based on a suicidal woman's children dying, the feds would not have to go along?

Scalia, in dissent, points out a truth that intentionally causing death is not a medical act.

But don't confuse the majority opinion with truth. What is really happening is the Court, as it often does in cultural issues, is reflecting elite liberal views, and if nothing else, the drive to legalize assisted suicide is an elite liberal political movement.

Media Shore Up Cloning by Underreporting Hwang

I have continued to pay attention to how the media has reported the Hwang fraud, in comparision to how his supposed "breakthrough" was covered, not to mention other important stories. Unsurprisingly, as I predicted when the story first came to light, the media have reported as little as they can get away with, in as low key a fashion. The coverage by Newsweek and Time are the two examples I offer in this piece in today's NRO.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Raelians Offer Hwang a Job

And this news article takes it--and them--seriously.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Media Goes in Tank For Vilsack

As I suspected, the media is just swallowing the tripe served up by Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack about new medical treatments from nuclear transfer requiring a change in the Iowa law. THERE HAVE BEEN NO NEW TREATMENTS. THERE HAVE NEVER EVEN BEEN EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS TAKEN FROM CLONED EMBRYOS!

You'd think the media would ask the governor to explain. But that would require real journalism instead of merely reporting off of press releases. Example: Des Moines Register. Ditto the Associated Press.

Vilsack: A Stupid Politician? Or Just Disingenuous?

Tom Vilsack, the Governor of Iowa, wants to overturn the ban on human cloning in that state. To justify the change, he claims there have been many medical advances created using cloning (nuclear transfer), which, of course, is just, plain baloney. Here's the money quote from his state of the state speech:

"A strong community embraces change. New discoveries require new approaches. One area that calls for a new approach is the area of medical research. Several years ago we limited medical research involving nuclear cell transplants at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. At the time we never dreamt that new treatments dependent upon such transplants would be developed so quickly. Well, they have been, and as a result we should revisit our ban on nuclear cell transplants. We should remove the restrictions and allow life saving treatments to be administered to Iowans here in Iowa rather than forcing them to leave our state. A strong community would never do otherwise." (My emphasis.)

There have been no "new treatments" developed with nuclear transfer. None. We now know post Hwang that there haven't even been any cloned embryonic stem cell lines created. Vilsack is either woefully ignorant or utterly disingenuous.

Judging the Secular Shamans

David Oderberg is a friend of mine from the UK and is a philosophy professor at Reading University. In this splendid column published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Oderberg takes on the worrisome trend in which many in society treat scientists as if they were priests. One cause of this phenomenon, as I have written, is that for some, science is morphing into scientism. In other words, science is seen as an ends rather than a means, a belief system rather than a technique for obtaining knowledge. Some people who have rejected religion (and some who haven't)look now to science for Truth (with a capital T), which science is incapable of providing.

Referring to the fraud that has recently come to light, Oderberg writes, "It's all very well having secular shamans, but when they're caught cooking the holy books once too often, the faithful start to get worried."

Oderberg also calls for a "separation from science and state."

"It may be inviting poison e-mails to say it, but I venture to suggest that contemporary science is now so corrupted by the lust for loot and glory that nothing less than root-and-branch reform can save it. For a start, although I distance myself wholly from his anti-rationalism and methodological anarchy, I share the late philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend's demand for a separation of science and state, or at the very least a radical curtailment of public financial sponsorship of scientific research. How could the millions thrown at scientists be anything other than a veritable inducement to misconduct? When you combine it with the innumerable honors and awards that await the next would-be secular savior of humanity, one wonders that fraud is not even more common than it appears to be."

I don't necessarily agree with removing public funding from science. (I do think that when public funding leads to remunerative patents and products, the public should receive some sort of return for their investment.) But, Oderberg is onto something important. Look around at the embryonic stem cell field. Can there be any doubting that the funding issue has sparked an hysteria among the science community and chamber of commerce type advocates?

He closes with a well-deserved slam against the California Center for Regenerative Medicine, the campaign for which (Proposition 71) had its own problems with integrity:

"It would be an act of utter folly and of contempt for honesty and integrity were Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's beloved California Institute for Regenerative Medicine now to go ahead. Were a bishop to be caught doctoring the Gospels, I doubt any scientists would be rushing to approve the Church's latest request for help to build a new cathedral. Why it should be any different for the secular bishops of science is difficult to discern."

Check Oderberg out. His opinion is well worth pondering.

Time for a Government Hearing on Peer Review?

Here is a story about another fraudulent paper published in a prestigious peer reviewed journal, this time involving cancer research. Whatever side one might be on regarding cloning and ESCR, we all have a stake in scientific integrity. We have always relied on the journals to self police. But with fraud seemingly on the increase, and with government policy often relying on peer reviewed journal articles as intellectual foundations, perhaps the time has come to investigate the peer review system to determine; a) its reliability; and, b), whether the system needs reform.

I am not advocating that laws be passed imposing that journal articles meet government mandated criteria. But I do believe we need to get to the bottom of what may be a fundamentally flawed system.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

What Is It About Cloning?

So now the human cloners in the UK have had a falling out. One researcher has accused his former partner of trying to steal the credit, or some such thing, and taken a job in Spain. He also accused the team of publishing their cloning findings before full peer review. The Newcastle cloning program is on hold as a new team is assembled. Such disorder in the scientific ranks!

It Isn't Just Koreans Who are Blinded to the "Truth" About Cloning

This Washington Post story summarizes the near hysteria in South Korea over Hwang and his fraud. Even in the face of facts, many of the people just refused to believe the truth that he is a charlatan and had not derived ES cells from cloned embryos.

But we also see that here. Despite a lack of scientific verification, scientists and media still assert unequivocally that cloning and ESCR are the "best hope" for regenerative medicine. The treasure trove of peer reviewed articles demonstrating the tremendous optimism we should have about adult/UCB stem cells do not penetrate outside the media screen.

In California, where trauma centers and emergency rooms are shutting down, voters refused a very minor tax on phone bills to keep them open. At the same time they agreed to borrow $7 billion (including interest) to chase the ESCR/cloning rainbow, that even if it works--a big if--is decades away. Today, states around the nation are in an Oklahoma Land Race frenzy to throw money at cloning and ESCR, even though the private sector is generally sitting on its collective wallet in this area of research.

Cloning and ESCR are being sold by Big Biotech and their media and university allies as a veritable fountain of youth. In this hyper-emotional atmosphere, reason and rationality are in short supply.

Friday, January 13, 2006

ES cells Morphed into Islet Cells Apparently Produce Little Insulin

FYI: This has been shown in other studies.

Insulin Secreted by Embryonic Stem Cells Is Derived From External
Sources, Concludes a Study in Cloning and Stem Cells

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan 10, 2006 - Cultured
embryonic stem cells induced to form insulin-producing Islet-like
cell clusters--intended to replace the insulin production lost in
diabetes--do not produce detectable amounts of new insulin,
according to a report in the December 2005 (Volume 7, Number 4)
issue of Cloning and Stem Cells, a peer-reviewed journal published
by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The paper is available free online.

Nothing Matters but the Cloning

Hwang is a fraud and a charlatan. Yet, he apparently was able to create cloned human embryos, although after using more than 2000 eggs, he was not able to derive one cloned ES cell line. He lied. He exploited women on his own research team for their eggs. He blamed others for his fraud. He sure seems to have taken money for cloning research under false pretenses. He caused not one, but two, fraudulent papers to be published in Science, not only causing great damage to that journal but calling into question the adequacy of peer review as currently practiced.

But, apparently none of that matters. According to a UK cloning research, Hwang should be given a "second chance." Nothing should get in the way of human cloning.

Ethics? For some it has little meaning at all.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hwang Should Become the Forgotten Man: Perhaps in Jail

Now Hwang is blaming his junior researchers for the fraud he committed on the world. What a total creep. The time has come for the media to quit reporting what he has to say, since very little of it is truthful. Let him go play with Snuppy the cloned dog until the prosecutors come to his house with an arrest warrant for defrauding the Korean government and any private investors who relied on his lies when investing in his human cloning research.

Now, Cloning Was Never A "Realistic" Therapy?

The international media continues its effort to minimize the Hwang scandal. Whereas before, we were told therapeutic cloning was going to make embryonic stem cell therapy (the most "promising" stem cell form, they tell us in every story despite the utter lack of scientific proof) doable because it would prevent immune rejection: We are now being told in several stories that it was never a realistic likelihood to be used widely in the clinical settings. Yet, when opponents used to say the same thing, we were branded anti-science and stealers of hope.

Also notice that there have been almost no comments in Hwang stories from opponents of cloning research. The purpose of this, it seems to me, is to keep the parameters of the story relatively narrow and permit continuing boosterism of ES cell research as a central focus of attention in the public's mind despite the continuing cascade of adult/umbilical cord blood stem cell research successes.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Some Wisdom About Hwang

James Kelly is a paralyzed American who is deeply involved in the therapeutic cloning debate, as he fervently wants to walk again. For years now, he has researched journal articles about stem cell research, corresponded with the scientists engaged in it, and become something of a lay expert in the entire field. He began a supporter of embryonic stem cell research. But he changed his mind. In his view, every dime that is poured into ESCR and cloning, is money unavailable for the areas where, based on his concentrated study, he sees his greatest hope for regaining mobility.

He knows of what he writes. This column, published in the Seoul Times makes some important points that the American MSM keep (willfully?) ignoring: Cloning is almost certainly not the best hope for cures for spinal cord injury in the soonest period of time. Well worth your time reading if you are interested in this issue.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Hwang Media Template

It is amazing how similar every story I have read on the Hwang fraud follows the same template, including this AP report. Ditto this New York Times story that ran on the front page below the fold.

1) Report the facts that Hwang is a fraud, but don't accurately describe the process of cloning;

2) Have scientists assure that the field will go forward, perhaps with even more vigor.

3) Describe the dashed hopes of people with degenerative conditions, but do not breathe a word about the adult stem cell research that offers at least as much, if not more, hope to these people--and sooner.

The AP story has an ironic twist. It quotes Australian stem cell researcher Alan Trounson as wondering how a scientist could lie. But as described in detail in Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World, he was forced to apologize himself after testifying before a parliamentary committee that embryonic stem cells had helped mice to walk, when the experiment in question hadn't involved ES cells.

Still no meaningful exploration of the history of hype surrounding cloning and ES cell research, whether the peer review system needs reform, the politicization of science, etc.

Thank goodness we have alternative media.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hwang Used More Than 2000 Human Eggs!

This is incredible. Not only was the 2004 cloning study faked, but from November of 2002 to November of 2005, Hwang used a total of 2061 eggs from 129 females, and obtained zero cloned embryos. And high school girls were volunteering to donate after he was exposed as a fraud, a charlatan, and probably a criminal since he appears to have gained millions of dollars in research funding based on false research results.

The Hwang fraud illustrates the problems with human cloning in a nutshell: The hype, the wild promises, the exploitation of women for their eggs, the eclipsing of more promising research involving adult or umbilical cord stem cells, the lack of skepticism by the mainstream media, the politicization of science--it is all there.

This is the link to the official report of the Hwang investigation.

Hwang Did Not Clone Embryos in 2004

So, Hwang has apparently never cloned any human embryos nor created cloned embryonic stem cells. But he did clone Snuppy the dog.

The stories about this fiasco are almost all being written as if it were a crushing blow for people with degenerative diseases. I can understand their disappointment, but it could be substantially mitigated if the media would report on the adult stem cell successes that are already beginning to do what cloning only hoped to begin doing in ten or twenty years. Their ongoing refusal to do so is a terrible indictment of the state of contemporary journalism.

Sharon and Quality of Medical Care for Everyone Else

I see that Ariel Sharon might be coming out of his coma after several surgeries to treat a series of strokes. Well, good for him. What strikes me about this is that I recall seeing on several news channels that had he not been the prime minister, doctors would have declared him dead. And they certainly wouldn't have performed the surgeries that may have saved his life.

First, let me say that the news in a 24-hour cycle is notoriously inaccurate. It wasn't the doctor making these statments but a reporter, who could have garbled the whole thing up. And I know that world leaders will get a distinctly different standard of care than the rest of the people. That may be unjust but it is a reality. But what concerns me is that if the reporter had it right, the Israeli doctor was basically saying that he would have let a regular person with a stroke like Sharon's die, rather than try to save him. If more information about this comes out, it will be worth looking into.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Hwang Patent Theft

Gerald Schatten, the University of Pittsburgh researcher who started Woo-suk Hwang's downfall by accusing him of buying women's eggs and lying about it, is now being accused in turn by Korean media of trying to steal Hwang's cloning technique by patenting it here in the United States at a time that he and his now disgraced Korean former partner were still colleagues.

So, the Koreans are mad that Schatten tried to claim ownership of a now discredited technique that apparently didn't work well enough to derive stem cells lines, if it worked at all. And Schatten helped bring down his former colleague after he apparently double-crossed him while the two were still "friends."

Whew. We're not in Kansas anymore, Todo.

LA Times Fails to Offer Hope to Paralyzed Boy After Hwang's False Promise

This Los Angeles Times Story about Woo-suk Hwang promising a 12-year old paralyzed boy that he would walk again even though he knew his research was fraudulent, tells us all we need to know about the world's most infamous scientist. What a creep.

This was a good story worth recounting. But it is maddening that the Times failed to also report that there is growing hope for such boys with umbilical cord blood stem cells and olfactory stem cells-- both of which have been reported to restore some feeling and mobility to spinal cord injury patients. (The umbilical cord blood success has been reported in a peer reviewed journal. Olfactory successes in mice have also been written up, which is far more than we can say about ES cells. Dr. Carlos Lima has helped about three dozen patients with olfactory tissues. I am told this research will be reported this year.)

Is it too much for the mainstream media to report such facts when relevant, as it clearly was to this story? Apparently it is. But if it were embryonic stem cells demonstrating such promise, you wouldn't be able to fit the headlines on the front page.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Pew Poll "Right to Die" Terminology Misleading

The Pew Poll, which I reported on below, also finds huge majorities favoring the so-called "right to die." This is an ambiguous term, often used by assisted suicide advocates to identify their cause. But this section of the poll is not referring to euthanasia or assisted suicide. Rather, it measures the belief that people have the right to refuse or stop unwanted medical treatment. That is a completely different moral issue from killing as a response to the difficulties associated with illness or disability.

The poll finds an unsurprising 84-10 in support of permitting death to come from natural causes by withdrawing life-sustaining treatment or other measures. Count me among the majority. As a former hospice volunteer, whose father died while under hospice care, I understand completely the importance of having the right not to have a respirator, chemotherapy, surgery, or even antibiotics. In the old parlance, people should not be hooked up to machines against their will.

However, I believe that feeding tubes should be analyzed differently. I believe cutting off feeding tubes from people based on quality of life judgments or cognitive impairment alone is immoral.

But I am not the dictator. It seem clear that people want the right to be dehydrated by removal or withholding of tube-supplied nutrition and hydration if they become profoundly cognitively disabled. And indeed, that is the law in all fifty states.

That being noted, it does seem to me that given the fact that depriving people of water and nutrition can only have one outcome, and given the profound symbolism inherent in refusing to provide such basic care, the responsibility for refusing feeding tubes should be on the patient and should have to put in writing. Absent that, the strong presumption of the law should be to provide such sustenance in all medically appropriate cases. Otherwise, we risk resurrecting the notion of the life unworthy of life wherein people are taken out to put them out of our misery.

Pew Poll Shows Support for Assisted Suicide Beneath 50%

Almost every time I am interviewed about the legalization of assisted suicide, reporters bring up the point that majorities supposedly support legalizing doctors providing people with the means to kill themselves. My response to such questions is that it depends on the poll. Some polls show that support for legalizing physician-assisted suicide does not reach 50 percent, although you can count on the media not publicizing those findings. Also, I point out that almost all real polls that have been held on the issue--elections--show that majorities oppose legalizing assisted suicide (the exception being with the Oregon).

This Pew Poll illustrates my point. Only 46% supported legalizing physician-assisted suicide, while 45% oppose. In other words, if the once seemingly unstoppable juggernaut is moribund, perhaps even losing support.

This seems right to me based on my sense of the "feel" of the environment based on almost 13 years of intense involvement with the issue. Moreover, I detect no real intensity to legalize assisted suicide outside a small cadre of committed advocates and their few legislative allies. This is why California's legalization legislation went nowhere last year and we news reports state that Vermont legislators have said that the assisted suicide bill pending there is not going anywhere.

This is good news, but the watchword of the day must continue to be vigilance. Euthanasia backers may be few, but they are intensely committed to their cause. Look for them to continue to prod and probe looking for an exploitable wink link to move their agenda forward.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Current Spin: Hwang Fraud Not a Setback For Science

This is a riot. When the charlatan Hwang was thought to have successfully cloned human embryos and derived patient-specific stem cells, it was lauded universally in the science community as a big and important step forward for regenerative medicine. Now, that it is clear Hwang was lying, the science spin seems to be developing that it's not even a step backward.

Check out these quotes from a story on the BBC: "I don't think it has set back research, but clearly we weren't as far forward as we thought we were," says Jack Price, professor of developmental neurobiology at the Institute of Psychiatry in London.

Professor Peter Andrews, a stem cell expert at the University of Sheffield, broadly agrees: "Whether or not the cloning works has very little impact on most of the research going on into human embryonic stem cells," he told the BBC News website."

If that is their story, they should stick to it. But it is going to be harder to squeeze hundreds of millions out of public coffers and gain private investments when the ability to engage in human cloning has gone from speculation, to seeming accomplishment, and back again to speculation.

Adult Breast Stem Cells Discovered in Mice

This discovery could lead to important insights into breast cancer, and eventually, the ability to regrow breasts after mastectomy. We live in an amazing world.

Saletan on Hwang

I have been waiting with some anticipation Will Saletan's take on the Hwang scandal. Even though I disagree with Saletan often, I find him to be one of the most provocative and interesting writers covering the science and ethics beats. Good for Slate for giving him seemingly free rein.

Saletan has now weighed in on Hwang, and I confess that I am a bit disappointed. He focuses intensely on the charlatan's exploitation of women for their eggs and on the lies he apparently told to make cloning seem efficient enough to be used in regenerative medicine. Saletan also regrets that Hwang may not have cloned human embryos at all.

I hope human cloning cannot be done. One reason is that, as Saletan has written about in other columns, there is simply no way that the use of cloned human life would be limited to harvesting early embryos in Petri dishes for their stem cells.

But Saletan's support for therapeutic cloning is not why I feel a bit let down. And I certainly agree with him about the egg issue. I think this column misses the true import of the Hwang fiasco, issues that should be in Saletan's sweet spot for hammering over the center field wall.

But then, there is only so much room to opine in one column. Hopefully Saletan will return to Hwang and address crucial issues the scandal raises such as peer review, the lack of skepticism about biotech in the mainstream media, the politicization of science, and other matters of pertinence and concern.

Murdering History

Bradford Short is a friend of mine, a young man with a big brain and a passion for bioethics and defending the sanctity/equality of human life. In this NRO piece, he takes the pro euthanasia bioethicist Margaret Pabst Battin to task today for "murdering history."

I haven't read her book, but apparently Battin strongly suggests that Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who both died on the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, committed assisted suicide or hastened their own deaths so as to die on July 4. In other words, Battin is trying to wrap the dignitas and reputations of two of America's Founding Fathers around the euthanasia movement.

Her premise seems to be that it is just too convenient for both to have died on the 4th. And she presents a few flimsly pieces of evidence, for example Adams wondering as he aged whether it would be better to die. But coincidences happen. Two lions of British letters, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley, both died on November 22, 1963, for example. (They were cheated out of their deserved headlines by the same day assassination of John F. Kennedy.)

Besides, Battin's theory is patent nonesense. One of my avocations is American history and I have read much about the lives of both Adams and Jefferson. David McCollough's sterling biography John Adams, for example, has no hint of his doing himself in. Indeed, when I toured the Adams' home in Qunicy, I recall the guide pointing to a chair in an upstairs parlor, and telling us that was the chair in which Adams was sitting when he apparently had a stroke. And if it was a plot hatched by the ex presidents, why were Adams' last words, "And Jefferson lives?" (not knowing that his old friend and political antagonist had died hours earlier.)

If Short correctly presents Battin's premise, and he is a man of integrity so he would not intentionally distort her thesis, then his criticisms of her work are more than warranted.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Holy Cow: South Korean Government May Be Implicated in Hwang Scandal

USA Today is reporting that the South Korean Government may have known Hwang's science was fraudulent but boosted it anyway. Here's another aspect of the cloning controversy in a nutshell; the stampede effect to get government boosting this research with bountiful grants of the public's funds to the point that hysteria, rather than the actual state of the science, seems to become the primary factor in decision making.

And here's a key quote that implicates the media's continued malpractice in fully reporting the story and its desire in the midst of this fiasco to still tout cloning as the primary hope for sick patients: "Richard Arvedon of Hartford, Conn., says his 8-year-old daughter, Emma, has had type 1 diabetes since she was 13 months old. She actually met Hwang at a United Nations conference on stem cell research several years ago.

"The family hoped that his research would help provide the breakthroughs that might one day cure Emma.

"Since 1999, Arvedon has volunteered with the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research to help foster U.S. stem cell research. He says he's disheartened by the news from South Korea, but adds, 'We know we have all these reputable scientists, all these wonderful people, working on this. We knew somebody's going to do it. Maybe Hwang hasn't, but we know somebody's going to.'"

See, here's the thing: At that point the reporter could have written that Type 1 diabetes has been cured in mice using adult stem cells from the spleen and that the experiment is approved for human trials. But the media still can't--or won't-- see the forest for the trees.

Hwang Coerced Own Female Team Members to "Donate" Their Eggs

The more I read about the Hwang debacle, the more I see the cloning enterprise in a nutshell. Not the fraud part. But the dehumanization. One of the principle objections feminists make to human cloning is the great potential that women will be exploited for their eggs, which would be worse in "therapeutic cloning" than "reproductive cloning" because it would require hundreds of millions or billions of eggs to treat the hundreds of millions of patients in the world with degenerative conditions. Hwang's exploitation of his laboratory team is an apt post script to the fraud story (which, of course, is still unfolding).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Using the Dying as Stem Cell Guinea Pigs

Last week, I blogged on Ian Wilmut's proposal to conduct embryonic stem cell research on people dying of ALS and perhaps, other neurological diseases. (Wilmut cloned Dolly the sheep and is now the head of a university regenerative medical institute.) He hopes to gain the approval of UK authorities even though embryonic stem cells haven't yet proved efficacious in treating neurological illnesses in animal studies and could cause tumors.

It stuck in my craw. Why should stem cell research be exempted from the ethical standards that apply in other areas of medical inquiries? And, it seemed to me, here was just another way this research seems to lead to dehumanization. I expanded on my concerns for the Daily Standard, which can instantly be accessed here.

Spinal Cord Injury Patient Supports Adult Stem Cell Research

This intriguing article was written by Jean Swenson, a woman paralyzed by a spinal cord injury. She has noticed that the better and more immediate hope for her condition seems to be adult stem cells, as opposed to ES cell research or therapeutic cloning. This is good news. Disease advocacy groups are among the most potent elements of the pro therapeutic cloning/ESCR coalition. If Swenson's heterodox views begin to sink deeply into the awareness of these dedicated folk,the debate will be profoundly changed.

Swenson also opines about why she believes that so many scientists are pursuing the less productive path of ESCR/cloning. Her theory can be summarized by that old cliche, follow the money. Patents are more likely obtainable from embryonic research than adult/umbilical cord blood approaches, and vast amounts of money more likely to be made.

I have heard this theory espoused before, often by people like Swenson with serious illnesses or disabilities. But I am not convinced. There is just too much adult stem cell research going on to sustain such a cynical attitude. Indeed, more researchers are probably working in adult avenues than embryonic, as demonstrated by the first Proposition 71 grants being earmarked to train researchers. Of the public grants issued by New Jersey, grants to fund ESCR were a fraction of the grants issued for other approaches.

I do believe money can be an issue, but I don't believe that researchers would turn away en masse from more efficacious avenues of helping people just to chase a buck that may not ever materialize.

Still, we should ponder Swenson's concerns. She has a strong personal stake in this research. The power of money can distort the natural trajectory of the science. And that is something we should guard against.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Newsweek Wins The Hwang Spin Award of the Week

I predicted earlier that the mainstream media would report the facts of the Hwang cloning fraud scandal, but downplay or spin away its core significance. Yesterday, I quoted some Time magazine spin that tried to hold Hwang responsible for the fraud, but not really blame him. But the worst example of avoiding the heart of the story I have seen so far is Newsweek, which barely even reported the facts. Early in the story readers learn that "Last month Hwang resigned after revelations that his lab had faked much of the work." Makes it sound like an old story doesn't it? Hwang actually resigned only on December 23, barely more than a week ago.

Toward the end of the story, we find a few sparse details: "A probe by Seoul National University concluded last week that the 11 stem cells Hwang claimed to have produced from cloned human embryos were in fact obtained from fertilized embryos, not cloned ones," and that the 2004 paper remains under investigation. That's it. Nothing about the devastating impact on stem cell science. Nothing about the implications to the American political debate, which Newsweek emphasized when first reporting the controversial "giant leap forward." Nothing, on whether the scam indicates anything seriously wrong with peer review. No big picture analysis: Nada. Zilch. Niente.

Instead, Newsweek deflects readers away from the deeper questions by producing a puff piece that all but dismisses the scandal, while touting the excellence of South Korean science.

In the piece we learn that despite serious doubts that Hwang made human cloned embryos, "his team is still the best in the world at the delicate work of transplanting the nuclei of tiny cells—which is central to further progress in stem-cell research." We learn that "A team at Maria Infertility Hospital...produced stem cells from fertilized eggs in 2000. Their work may lead to the ability to grow specific human organs to replace damaged ones." (American researcher James Thomson derived embryonic stem cells from frozen embryos in 1997.) We learn that "Nearly 100 treatments for such diseases as Parkinson's using adult stem cells from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood are undergoing clinical testing." This is good to know, but why wasn't it considered news before?

Besides, Hwang's fraud is really all a "blessing in disguise." From the article: "Now that Hwang's project will no longer be hogging the spotlight, funding will be more equitably allocated to worthy projects, analysts say. Scientists are already talking about setting more stringent ethical guidelines for themselves, standards they see as essential to repairing the damage to their credibility."

I have heard of the media playing hide the ball before: But this is ridiculous.

Time Magazine in the Cloning Spin Zone

Time magazine, byline Michael D. Lemonick, has published a pretty good description of the fall of the House of Hwang. But when it gets into the import of the scandal, the reporter inexplicably enters the cloning spin zone. Lemonick speculates that despite there being no evidence that Hwang actually did succeed in creating patient-specific cloned stem cell lines: He really did! But time pressures caused him to "cut corners" after the cells were killed by fungi. Yea, that's the ticket.

Here are a few choice quotes from this ridiculous drivel:

"By all accounts, the tales of Hwang's dedication and personal discipline are all true. Hwang was one of the first to arrive in the lab, at 5 a.m., and rarely left before midnight. He rejected the role of aloof, inaccessible scientist to become a father-like figure for his young charges. And he introduced some genuine innovations into the science of cloning--gently squeezing the nucleus out of a donor egg rather than sucking it out violently and inserting the entire adult cell, not just its nucleus, into the hollowed-out recipient egg. Hwang insisted he had no interest in profiting from his discoveries; indeed, he turned over his patent rights to the university and the government.

That being the case, it seems unlikely that Hwang set out to perpetrate fraud."

But he may not have introduced those "innovations." He may not have cloned at all. At the very least, it now appears certain--absent the vast conspiracy to ruin him that is Hwang's current line of defense--that there were never any cloned embryonic stem cells made at all for 2005 paper. And photographs of the supposed cloned embryonic stem cells published in the 2004 Science paper were plagiarized from an earlier journal article about stem cells obtained from natural embryos.

The Time spin continues. The cause of the stretching of the truth may have been fungi that destroyed the cloned ES cells, it reports. "Hwang claims it took six months to recover from the disaster. But it also might be that Hwang's team couldn't recover quickly enough and began taking shortcuts to fill the gap. Under pressure from the government and the university, and with a deadline looming for publication in one of the world's most prestigious journals, the temptation to stretch the truth [!!!] might have been irresistible...

"In Hwang's case, it may be that mistakes were made or frauds committed without his knowledge, but as head of the research team and lead author of the published results, he's stuck with the responsibility."

Puhleese. The man is an outright charlatan. But, according to Lemonick, he is in trouble merely because he was the head of the team and has to take the fall.

As I keep saying, many in the mainstream media play Ginger Rodgers on this beat to the cloning proponents' Fred Astaire. But it won't work. The truth is a hard commodity to suppress.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Media Begin to See the Deeper Meaning of Hwang: From the Left

This analysis by Independent (UK) columnist Mary Dejevsky, is spot on. Her thesis: The time has come to reassess whether embryonic stem cell research is as hopeful as has been hyped, er stated. Too bad we are unlikely to see anything like it published in the New York Times. She also gets into the eugenics implications of it all. Bravo.

Iowa Governor Vilsack Hasn't Been Keeping Up With the News

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack apparently has a problem: He is a Democrat who wants to run for president. But, he signed a bill banning all human cloning in Iowa three years ago. Vilsack apparently thinks that supporting a cloning ban would, shall we say, hinder his chances of gaining the nomination. So now, he has reversed course and promises to sign a bill reversing the cloning ban if it reaches his desk.

But don't think it is politics that has caused his change of heart: Oh no! He says it was all of the advances in human therapeutic cloning over the last three years that caused him to rethink his position.

Come again? Apparently Vilsack hasn't been keeping up with the news over the holidays. If he had, he would know that the human cloning project has utterly imploded; the "advances" by South Korean researcher "Woo-Suk Hwang having been proved to be a total fraud. Since Hwang was the only researcher in the world claiming to have successfully cloned human embryos and derived embryonic stem cells from them--and since he lied about doing it--there would seem to be no cloning advances upon which Vilsack could base his claim that the Iowa law needs to change.

Timing is everything in politics, Governor. Your announcement is about a month too late to be seen as anything but craven politics.

And Now a Medical School in Trouble for Apparent Fraud

To avoid criminal charges the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey has permitted itself to be taken over by a federal monitor. Apparently double billing, Medicare fraud, and other irregularities. The deal apparently is in lieu of criminal prosecution. But if there is massive financial fraud, shouldn't a medical school be treated just like Enron?

Hat tip: Art Caplan.