Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Breaking Through The Stem Cell News Blockade

I got up early this morning, checked the New York Times, LA Times, USA Today, and other papers to see whether they had reported the big news that scientists had created a primordial artificial liver using umbilical cord blood stem cells. As expected, nothing: The news blockade was in place. After all, if it isn't an embryonic stem cell research, it isn't worth reporting since that is where the "best hope" is to be found. I mean, Michael J. Fox tells us so, right?

So, I wrote this piece and the good people over at the Daily Standard were kind enough to post it immediately. Check it out and break through the stem cell news blockade!

Monday, October 30, 2006

James Kelly Takes on Michael J. Fox "Hype Over Hope"

We are told by the media that it is wrong to criticize Michael J. Fox because he has a serious affliction and thus his perspective must be respected. Very well: Let's apply that standard to James Kelly, who was paralyzed in a car crash several years ago, leaving him with paraplegia.

Determined to walk again, Kelly initially supported ESCR, and even wrote a letter to President Bush back in 2001 to fully fund the research. But when he explored the issue more deeply, he became convinced that ESCR was the wrong approach. Moreover, he believes that every dime devoted to ESCR is money taken from adult and umbilical cord blood stem cell research where Kelly believes the more likely therapies are to be found. (Kelly is the one who first alerted me to the incredible work Dr. Carlos Lima of Lisbon, Portugal is doing with olfactory stem cell therapies for spinal cord injury patients.) He is now an indomitable campaigner for ethical stem cell research, and writes for the Seoul Times about biotech issues.

Kelly has this hard-hitting piece in the current Human Events about the Michael J. Fox imbroglio. He has a lot to say about the hyping of ESCR for Alzheimer's and of various approaches to finding treatments for Parkinson's. Kelly concludes his article with this slap at Fox: "Four years ago I realized that those morally opposed to killing embryos for research were protecting real causes for medical hope, whether they meant to or not. For me, their moral concerns regarding all human life may determine whether science moves in practical directions that lead to my walking again--to whether Michael J. Fox overcomes Parkinson's disease--or spends his remaining days believing in fairy tales and passing them on to others.

Whoever Fox supports, Americans would be well advised to vote for their opponent."


More WJS Radio On Amendment 2

I did a one hour interview about Amendment 2 today to 99.3 FM, in Columbia, MO. We discuss the Michael J. Fox deception, the fact that Mr. Jim Stowers is trying to buy his own constitutional amendment in MO, the deception of Amendment 2, the junk biology shoveled by the initiative's proponents, what Missourians can learn from California's Proposition 71, and we even get into New Jersey's law that would permit cloned fetal farming. I point out that the science leadership is becoming hubristic and arrogant because the stem cell fight is over which value system will control society, one based on the intrinsic value of human life or a scientism, in which science is seen as leading to Truth. The host, Derek Gilbert, also has a nice riff about using a constitutional amendment to set policy into stone when laws would be better reflections of the democratic will. There is also discussion of the uncontroversial areas of biotechnology as well as the new breakthrough in which umbilical cord blood stem cells created a new liver. If you don't get enough of me here at Secondhand Smoke, check it out.

Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells Transformed Into a Liver!

This is a huge story: Scientists in the UK have transformed umbilical cord blood stem cells into a liver. From the story: "As it stands, the mini organ can be used to test new drugs, preventing disasters such as the recent 'Elephant Man' drug trial. Using lab-grown liver tissue would also reduce the number of animal experiments." Eventually, scientists hope to generate this technique into liver therapies--and perhaps even transplants. Wow!

Let's see if the US media ignore or underplay this. After all, it is an experiment that does not undermine the Bush stem cell funding policy, so it really isn't news.

Use This "Open Thread " to Comment on Any Topic Relevant to Secondhand Smoke

Royale, one of the regular participants here at Secondhand Smoke, suggested in a comment that I create a place for people to ask questions, bring up old issues, or generally comment beyond the scope of the individual posts that I place on the site. I think this is a splendid idea--sort of the blog equivalent to "open phones" segments on talk radio.

So, anyone and everyone: Please consider this an open thread. Feel free to raise any bioethical issue you want, so long as it is relevant to what we discuss here at Secondhand Smoke. If it is a success, I will make "Open Thread" a regular feature.

Thanks for the idea, Royale! Let's see what is on people's minds.

Laura Ingraham Explains The Deception Behind Amendment 2

Laura Ingraham on O'Reilly - Facts on the cloning bill

Laura Ingraham is spot on in this interview! She is right that majorities in public opinion polls oppose human cloning for any reason. For example, in a 2005 poll published by Virginia Commonwealth University, 59% opposed "using human cloning technology IF it is used to create human embryos that will provide stem cells for human therapeutic purposes."

The authors of Amendment 2 knew that, of course, which is why they deceptively redefined the term "cloning a human being" from its accurate scientific definition of somatic cell nuclear transfer, to a profoundly deceptive advocacy definition of implanting the product of SCNT into a womb. But implantation is no more cloning than implanting an embryo during IVF fertility treatments is fertilization.

And Ingraham was also right when she stated she suspected that Fox had not read Amendment 2, which he has since admitted.

The entire cloning debate is crucial to the American future. People deserve the facts so that they can make properly reasoned ethical choices. Those, such as the authors of Amendment 2 who use deceptive tactics to win a political debate, demonstrate a profound disrespect for democracy.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Real Harm Being Done to Bone Marrow Donation Due to ESCR Advocacy Strategy

The political strategy of pro-cloners and pro ESCR advocates to conflate "stem cell research" with "embryonic stem cell research"--as Michael J. Fox did in his deceptive ads--may be causing very real, if unintended, harm to human patients. Apparently some people confuse embryonic stem cell research from bone marrow stem cells, to the point that those seeking to add names to the bone marrow donation registry are having trouble meeting their recruitment goals. From the story:

"'Our need is so much larger than the transplants that we do,' [Julie] Tilbury [coordinator of the National Marrow Donor Program for the Rock River Valley Blood Center] said. 'The biggest challenge is we just don't have the donors.' Tilbury said confusion about the difference between adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells is one barrier to convincing people to join the registry. 'Often times, when you hear stem cells, there's a belief that there's only one type of stem cells--those that come from embryos,' she said. 'The reality is that there are so many different sources of stem cells. Our marrow is one source.'

The sowing of confusion to win a political debate, so that "stem cell research" is used as a synonym for "embryonic stem cell research" is not only dishonest, but it could be dangerous to sick people's health.

HT: Rebecca Taylor

Fox Continues Deceptive Ways: Calls Soon-to-be Brain Tumors "Tissue Residue"

Michael J. Fox has stated in an interview on ABC that he hasn't read Amendment 2, and thus, he hasn't taken an explicit position on it. Puh-leese. Could he be any more Clinton-like? His ad against Senator Jim Talent claimed that Talent "opposes expanding stem cell research" and that he "wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope." By "expanding stem cell research" Fox can only mean cloning since ESCR is perfectly legal and Talent (nor President Bush, for that matter) has never proposed criminalizing it. Talent's other big apparent sin is to oppose Amendment 2, which would create a specific state constitutional right to engage in human somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning (e.g., expanded stem cell research). But, as readers of Secondhand Smoke must now be tired of reading, SCNT is not a synonym for ESCR.

Wait, there's more: He claims that millions of people support the research, which, of course, is true, and urges that opponents permit them to do so "without infusing the conversation with inflammatory rhetoric and name-calling and fear-mongering."

Well, who in the heck strongly implied that people who disagree with him about giving a blank federal check for ESCR are less interested in curing terrible diseases? None other than one Michael J. Fox, in this ad against Michael Steel in Maryland: "Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's. But George Bush and Michael Steel would put limits on the most promising stem cell research. Fortunately, Marylanders have a chance to vote for Ben Cardin. Cardin fully supports life saving stem cell research, that's why I support Ben Cardin. And with so much at stake, I respectfully ask you to do the same."

Fox has used his disease to sensationalize the ESCR and human cloning debates so that people will feel rather than think, in deciding where they stand. He has hyped the research, he deceived sick people and their families about ESCR being a real hope for curing Alzheimer's disease, and he sought to depict those with whom he disagrees as somehow anti-cures.

And this is what he said about the problem of ESCR causing tumors: "In fact, they just did some work where they found that it actually relieved the symptoms of Parkinson's in one test, but there some residue, some tissue residue that built up, which is not ideal."

Not ideal? One hundred percent of those mice would have developed brain tumors, er, "tissue residue." I repeat: Puh-leese!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Great Marketing Idea

Bogo Wines is promoting both its wines and ethical stem cell research. I have had the wines, and they are very nice--and reasonably priced. And, of course, I like the message about stem cell research, too. Thanks, Bogo!

Hitting Back Aganst Deceptive Michael J. Fox Ad in Maryland

Supports Stem Cell

File this under the "What is good for the goose is good for the gander," file. Maryland Senatorial candidate Michael Steel turns the tide on Michael J. Fox for the calumny that opponents of cloning and giving Big Biotech a blank check for embryonic stem cell research don't care about helping suffering people.

It is worth noting that patients' own adult blood stem cells, in Stage 2 human trials--meaning that it is not yet ready for clinical use--have prevented progressive MS from worsening. This is not a cure but it is a huge potential breakthrough in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, and it has nothing to do with ESCR or cloning.

On the Charlie Sykes Show About Exploitive Michael J. Fox Ads

I was called by the Charlie Sykes Show on WTMJ out of Milwaukee yesterday to comment about the Michael J. Fox controversy. We had a wide ranging discussion, in which, among other matters, I described how political-scientists are actually corrupting science and I opined that people who say Fox should not be criticized because of his illness are condescending to him, while those who treat him like the vigorous political player that he has become, are treating him like a man. If you are of a mind, check it out here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

ESCR: "Scientific Optimism" versus "Scientific Despair"

My friend Eric Cohen, resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has an interesting article" The Ends of Science," in the current First Things (no link available). "Whenever I meet with scientists," he writes, "I'm always struck by the optimism and despair."

One aspect of this seeming paradox plays out in the embryonic stem cell and human cloning research debates, according to Cohen: "Perhaps one reason the debate about embryonic stem cells has become so prominent is that it combines scientific optimism and scientific despair so completely: the optimistic search for cures, the discontent that nature yields remedies for her afflictions so slowly, the resentment at Bush-administration moralists for standing in the way of scientific progress for nonscientific reasons. The greatest animus among scientists is directed at religious believers, often defined as anyone who seeks limits on scientific freedom for ethical reasons the scientists themselves do not find compelling. The deans of major research centers feel like persecuted Galileos, yet they defend their turf in the most unscientific ways: treating the paralyzed as props in the campaign for research funding, promising cures based only on preliminary experiments, caricaturing every opponent as an irrational fanatic.

"For it turns out that the methods of science cannot vindicate the ends of science, and the knowledge acquired by scientific methods cannot always justify the particular experiments used to acquire it. Yet scientists desperately want such vindication in the eyes their fellow citizens."

This analysis seems flawless to me. But I would go even further. I think that many among the science intelligentsia (as opposed to bench scientists) have turned science into their religion--scientism--in which they fervently believe it leads to Truth. But it can't. Science can't tell us right from wrong. It is a method for obtaining and applying knowledge. When it is turned into an ideology, science itself is corrupted.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Secondhand Smoke Poll Results

For those who haven't checked, here is the current status of the poll I fashioned to see how y'all read the tea leaves. The question posed was this: "In the next twenty years, what is the most likely scenario?" I gave five possible answers to choose from. Here is how you see the future so far:

Embryonic Stem Cells Provide Most of the Cures Promised by Proponents--6%
The First Human Cloned Baby is Born--16%
Chimpanzees Are Declared to Be Legal Persons--6 %
Fetal Farming Is Used to Supply Organs for Transplantation--31%
The First Death-On-Demand Suicide Clinic Opens--40%

It's not too late to look into your crystal balls and tell us what you see. If you want to do so, just hit this link.

I liked this poll. I'll post others as the muse hits me.

Fox Pitches Stem Cell Alzheimer's Deception

Michael J Fox For Ben Cardin

More deception from Michael J. Fox. In this ad, he claims that "stem cell research" "offers hope" for Alzheimer's. But it is well known that of all of the degenerative conditions that either adult or embryonic stem cells could theoretically treat, people with Alzheimer's are among the least likely to benefit. Indeed, one notable biotech researcher told the Washington Post that the biotech sector permits Alzheimer's patients and their families to believe false assertions such as Fox's because "people need a fairy tale."

There are concrete reasons for hope for Alzheimer's disease patients in other areas of medical research. But embryonic stem cell research and human cloning are highly unlikely to provide it, since unlike Parkinson's, Alzheimer's is a whole brain disease with billions of neurons, synapses, etc. affected, making the disease unlikely to respond to ES cell therapies.

I assume Fox is ignorant of this, but it is no excuse. His ad is deceptive and cruelly exploits the hopes and yearnings of Alzheimer's victims and their families.

An Example of True Humanity

This story is amazing: A Taiwanese couple has cared for their unconscious daughter for 53 years. In today's mainstream bioethical view, this is a "burden" that should not have to be countenanced. I say it is as profound an act of unconditional love as I have ever heard of. This should be the true face of humanity, not dehydrating the helpless to death because we think they have lives not worth living.

Fox Took "Too Much Medication?"

I just heard a sound bite of Michael J. Fox saying that the extent of his symptoms in the ads wasn't caused by going off his medication, but from "taking too much medication." If true, and if he did it on purpose, he did intend to deceive. Taking too much medication to exaggerate one's bodily symptoms for use in a deceptive and exploitive ad is shameful manipulation of the voters and, in that sense, is profoundly disrespectful of democracy.

But this is the pro cloning game plan; hype, deceive, demagogue, exploit our fixation with celebrities, and appeal strictly to the emotions. But the bloom may be off the rose.

A Classic Example of Media "Bias by Omission" in AP Story About Fox

They just keep doing it, but they can't get away with it any more. The AP, byline Jim Salter, has a story about Michael J. Fox's deceptive partisan ads and Rush Limbaugh's speculation that the actor went off his Parkinson's meds before taping them in order to make a more startling appearance. Readers of Secondhand Smoke know that Limbaugh has a solid basis for his speculation, since Fox admitted in his autobiography that he did that very thing to make a more dramatic effect before testifying in front of a Congressional committee.

Salter deals with the controversy and its effect on the campaign about Missouri's Amendment 2, has a professor stating that Limbaugh is ridiculous to make such an assertion--and never mentions Fox's admission from his book! (Nor, might I add, do reporters seem to be asking Fox about the matter. If the story concerned a non media-favored spokesperson, he or she would be hounded at every campaign stop and forced to admit or deny the assertion.)

Salter's reporting is classic example of bias by omission, which is endemic within the MSM. If a pertinent fact interferes with the story the media want to tell, they ignore it. I saw it in Schiavo, when Michael was almost always merely referred to as Terri's "husband" with no reference to his subsequent committed romance to a woman he called his fiancé, or their two children, leaving a materially false impression that he had remained loyal to Terri throughout her disability. Similarly, the media to this day almost always refers to Jack Kevorkian as the retired doctor who helped "terminally ill" people commit suicide--when most of his victims were not terminally ill. And here it is again in the Fox story, a small example, but very illustrative.

The good news is that there are alternative methods for getting the full story out past the MSM truth blockade. The biased traditional outlets still have more power to mold public attitudes about crucial controversies--we saw that raw power exercised with full vigor in Schiavo--but it is ebbing steadily every day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Paving the Way to Exploit Poor Women for Their Eggs

The calls are growing to open the door to markets in human eggs. The Telegraph has reported that Dr David Adamson, the president-elect of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, has called for opening the doors wide to purchasing eggs for use in IVF. Eggs are also needed for each effort at human cloning, and the calls are being heard to permit biotechnologists to buy eggs.

So, this is the situation. If people like Dr. Adamson get their way, poor women are going to be enticed--and some already are being enticed--to risk their health, their fertility, and in a few cases, even their lives to help rich parents with fertility problems give birth and/or to facilitate human cloning in which Big Biotech hopes to make a bonanza on the technology.

If we ever get to the point that we need millions of eggs, rather than just thousands, it could spark a neo colonialism in which biotech companies exploit the world's poorest women for their body parts. We should do all we can to prevent poor women from becoming mere commodities.

Thanks Secondhand Smoke Visitors for Your High Level of Discourse

I have been going through the comments about the Michael J. Fox ads, euthanasia, animal liberation, and other issues we discuss here. And I must say, I am most pleased with the level of discourse. Unlike some sites in which cuss words and name calling are the order of the day, we converse. I appreciate all of the commentators who post reactions here for making Secondhand Smoke a better place for people to visit. Thanks for your many contributions, and for you many readers out there who might like to share your views but haven't yet: Come on in, the water's fine.

Human Cloning: What About the Eggs?

Kathryn Lopez, over at NRO, has an excellent column on the human egg issue as it relates to cloning and the exploitation of women. The piece leads off with a quote from my good friend Jennifer Lahl, a mover and shaker behind the pro-choice/pro-life/pro-women advocacy group Hands Off Our Ovaries. Jennifer is also the head of the Center for Bioethics and Culture, for which I consult.

Read Lopez's column. It brings up important issues about the potential exploitation of women in the brave new world toward which we are careening, just one of the crucial issues that needs to be considered when deciding whether to countenance human cloning.

Exit International: The True Face of the Assisted Suicide Movement

The old Hemlock Society was batty, but at least it was truthful--in its name (after a poison) and its goals; the right to choose the time, manner, and method of death. Hemlock has changed its name and put on a false face as the euphemistic Compassion and Choices, where we now hear gooey talk about "aid in dying" and "medical models," etc.

But the truth about euthanasia belief has not been silenced. Take a gander at this newsletter from Exit International, which touts suicide machines, peaceful (suicide) pills, and etc. Exit International is whacky and dangerous, but at least it has the courage of its convictions by demonstrating the true agenda of the euthanasia movement.

No Wonder African-Americans Aren't Big Assisted Suicide Fans

We often hear the "choice" word thrown about in assisted suicide advocacy. But there is another "C-word" that needs more discussion: Context. Assisted suicide in the USA would be implemented amidst profound inequalities regarding access to quality care.

This story is a case in point. It turns out (Surprise! Surprise!) that African-Americans fare worse in the American health care system than other patient categories--even when they have the same insurance policies. "The most striking gap identified by the study's authors was in patients who had suffered serious heart problems. The researchers found that while 72 percent of white patients with previous heart disease had their cholesterol under control, only 57 percent of blacks did. Black patients were also less likely to have their blood pressure and blood sugar well controlled, according to the study published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association."

Does anyone think that this (and a concomitant bias against people with disabilities) would not impact the application of assisted suicide? Or for that matter, futile care theory, dehydration of the cognitively impaired, and etc.?

Our emphasis must be on promoting a culture in which the intrinsic value of every human being is acknowledged and protected. Current trendy bioethics issues go in exactly the wrong direction and mark a distinct threat to universal human equality.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Fox "Responds" to Medication Accusation

Except he doesn't. In this story, he says his pills are working well, for which we are all glad. He definitely doesn't say whether or not he stopped taking his medication before shooting the deceptive ads. A doctor says his movements seen on tape were caused by the medications, but is the doctor Fox's physician? The story doesn't say.

Fox has admitted in his own book going off medications before testifying to make his appearances before legislative committees more dramatic. It is not unreasonable to think he did the same thing before taping his many partisan ads. It would be very easy for Fox to put the whole thing to bed by simply calling a press conference to deny that he stopped taking his meds before taping. So far, he has not done so.

PETA is Bad For Your Health

PETA and Cancer Research

Center for Consumer Freedom, an industry supported non profit, has this truthful ad up that skewers the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for impeding cancer and other medical research. The fact is we need to use animals in research. Period. It is part of ethical science. Those who would impede the research, do so at your peril.

Support for Amendment 2 Dropping!

"Certain" support for Amendment 2, which would legalize human cloning in Missouri, has dropped below 50% for the first time. In a Survey USA poll, sure support is down in less than 2 weeks from 57% to 45%. Sure no votes are up are up from 27% to 36%. Hopefully the "Show Me" state will show those who want to buy their votes through tens of millions in deceptive advocacy the door. Still more work to do, but we have not yet begun to fight! Onward!

HT: The Corner

Fox Doesn't Take Meds Before Testifying

Well, it seems pretty clear to me now that Fox did not take his medications so as to appear more "sympathetic" in his deceptive television ads about human cloning and embryonic stem cell research. He has used this strategy before. From his book: "I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease, and the urgency we as a community were feeling, be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling."

Source: Lucky Man, p. 247. The committee Fox is referring to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, September 28, 1999. Like I said, this isn't deceptive but is intended to prevent the viewer from thinking about what he is saying, and critics from holding him to account for his other deceptions.

It seems to me this epitomizes the entire pro-cloning advocacy approach.

HT: D. Andrusko

Missourians: Don't be Bought, Don't be Fooled--Vote NO on Amendment 2

Response Ad to Michael J. Fox

Don't be bought, don't be fooled," actor Jim Caviezel, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan, and other celebrities warn Missouri voters, as they explain why voters in MO should reject Amendment 2.

Fox Off His Medication To Tape Ads?

It appears that Michael J. Fox went off his medications before shooting his deceptive ads against Senator Jim Talent and other politicians.

I don't think this is deceptive in that Fox wasn't faking his symptoms, only showing how he would be without the medications. Plus, eventually the meds stop working. But it was sure emotionally exploitive. The purpose being to get people to "feel" not "think." We'll see if it works.

P.S. Fox's home country of Canada has banned all human cloning--which he criticizes American politicians for wanting to do in his deceptive ads, only he falsely claims that these American candidates want to ban stem cell research. Deception upon deception: SCNT cloning and ESCR are not synonyms. SCNT creates a new human cloned embryo. ESCR destroys embryos that have been previously created. This distinction is morally important--which is why the pro cloners pretend that SCNT and ESCR are the same things.

Hwang: What a Guy

So, disgraced charlatan, would-be human cloner Hwang Wu-suk, who burned through more than 2000 eggs (some unethically procured), resulting in no cloned embryos or cloned embryonic stem cell lines, and who lied cruelly to the world before justly crashing and burning, is blaming his subordinates for lying to him about his failed experiments. He's not only a crook, but a sniveling crook. He also claims to have worked with the Russian Mafia to procure mammoth DNA in a failed attempt to clone one of the extinct pachyderms. And, he took millions from the government to fund this travesty, for which he is up on criminal charges in South Korea.

If found guilty, he belongs in jail. For lying to the world about having cloned human embryos, he deserves a prominent spot in the science hall of infamy.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Let Me Know What You Think

I thought it would be interesting and fun to take the pulse of the readers of Secondhand Smoke. So, I devised a poll to see what y'all think about some of the most important and contentious bioethical issues of the day.

In the Next Twenty Years, What is the Most Likely Scenario?
Embryonic Stem Cells Provide Most of the Cures Promised by Proponents
The First Human Cloned Baby is Born
Chimpanzees Are Declared to Be Legal Persons
Fetal Farming Is Used to Supply Organs for Transplantation
The First Death-On-Demand Suicide Clinic Opens
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Missing the Bigger Picture on Suicide

I am completely cool with health care workers being warned to be on the lookout for suicide ideation among their cancer patients. When I was a hospice volunteer, I was trained similarly. I was told in no uncertain terms that if a patient threatened or even mentioned suicide, I was to tell the multidisciplinary team so that they could intervene and address the problem.

But there is something missing in this story that describes the problem of suicide ideation among cancer patients. I believe that one of the reasons people with cancer and other serious illnesses and disabilities may look to suicide as a way out is the permeation of assisted suicide advocacy. The fundamental message of "death with dignity" is that suicide/mercy killing is an acceptable answer to the problems of human suffering. The implied subtext is that a natural death is undignified. If we want to protect cancer patients--and others--from suicide, we must guard against the mixed message that currently permeates society; suicide prevention for some, but facilitation for others.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Eloquent and Cogent Description of the Human Embryo

Stanford bioethicist, William Hurlbut, Princeton professor Robert P. George, and stem cell scientist Markus Grompe, have published a defense of ANT in the Hastings Center Report. (No link available.) It is a cogent essay, beyond my capacity to reproduce here. But it contains a splendid description of the rich essence of the human embryo and why these nascent members of the human species matter morally that I would like to share with the readers of Secondhand Smoke.

The authors note that a human embryo is a human organism: "An organism is a dynamic whole, an interactive web of interdependent processes that express emergent properties not apparent in the biochemical parts. Within this dynamic, self-sustaining system is the very principle of life, the organizing information and coordinated coherence of a living being. With the full complement of essential elements, an organismal system subsumes and sustains the parts; it exerts a downward causation that binds and balances the parts into a patterned program of integrated growth and development."
"In a true embryonic organism, the intrinsic powers and active potentialities are expressed in the coordinated unity and ordered unfolding of species-typical form. The very word 'organism' implies organization--an overarching principle that binds the parts and processes of life into a coherent and coordinated whole. As a living being, an organism is a self-developing and self-maintaining unity under the governance of an immanent plan. In practical application, these criteria mean that if we create an embryonic human being--an incipient human life--in a laboratory dish, then it is not a resource to be used, but a distinct human individual with a moral claim for just and respectful treatment." (My emphasis.)

These guys are sure smarter than I am.

Source: Hasting Center Report, September-October 2006, pp 42-50.

Fox's Tragedy Doesn't Make His Statements About Embryonic Stem Cells True

Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox doesn't tell the truth about Senator Talent in this ad. Talent does not want to outlaw stem cell research. Rather, he does not support Missouri's Amendment 2, which would create a constitutional right in Missouri to conduct human cloning--which isn't the same thing at all.

I find it sad that Fox would use his own tragic disease as an emotional club for political purposes. But since he has, since he placed himself in the center of all of this, people need to know a little more about the story that Fox either doesn't know, or doesn't care to tell you. Embryonic stem cells cause tumors when injected into mice. This has been known for years, but the most recent example involved mice with Parkinson's who were injected with human ES cells--apparently to very bad effect. Nor will using cloned embryos to obtain ES cells--which would be authorized by Amendment 2--solve this seemingly intractable tumor problem.

Ads like Fox's are shameful in that they pull our emotional heart strings--who could not be touched by seeing anyone with Parkinson's--without shedding any actual light. Only in this case, deception rather than truth, was the order of the day.

Using Unconscious Patients as So Many Organ Farms

The importance of accepting the intrinsic value of human life cuts across almost every major bioethical issue facing society today. In this San Francisco Chronicle column, I describe how our most vulnerable brothers and sisters--those diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state--are being looked upon increasingly by many bioethicists as so many organ farms or guinea pigs for use in medical experimentation. "Those we would exploit," I write, "we must first dehumanize." A favored approach to dehumanizing the unconscious is to redefine them as dead. I envision the kind of scenario that this kind of advocacy--which appears in the world's most respected medical and bioethics journals--could lead.

"Consider the kind of scenario this advocacy contemplates: Alice, a woman in her late 20s, nearly drowns. Aggressive CPR restarts her heart but she remains unresponsive for six months. Doctors tell her husband Jack she is in a persistent vegetative state--and although the diagnosis is difficult to make with certainty and is often wrong--they conclude she will never awaken.

"Since the law now considers a persistent vegetative state the same as being dead, the state issues a death certificate. Jack assures doctors that Alice wanted her body used for science if she ever died or became profoundly incapacitated. Accordingly, her 'breathing cadaver' is transferred from a nursing home to a major organ transplant center. Soon, her kidneys are removed for transplantation into renal patients. Doctors then implant pig kidneys. Alice survives the surgery and continues to breathe on her own. She lives for years in isolation as researchers continually test for dangerous porcine viral infections. When the experiment concludes, Alice is lethally injected -- which is not considered euthanasia because she is already legally dead -- and her remains are cremated."

It's an ugly, but no longer unthinkable, scenario. To avoid this unethical and immoral exploitation of the most vulnerable among us, we must cling to the crucial understanding that human life matters.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

What the Bush Stem Cell Policy is Really All About

Let us pull back for a moment and ponder the embryonic stem cell debate. What has it been over as a matter of government regulation? Not whether it could be done legally. There are no federal efforts to outlaw ESCR. The debate isn't even about whether the U.S. taxpayers should foot the bill for human ESCR. It already does, to the tune of about $50 million per year. The issue is more narrow than that: Whether the federal government should pay for ESCR in which embryos are destroyed with the expectation of receiving federal research funds thereafter (e.g, the Clinton approach).

That would not seem to be grounds for the issue to become such a big international Magilla. And in my view, it isn't. The reason the issue has become so huge is that it isn't really about the science, it isn't about the money, and it isn't about the potential for CURES! CURES! CURES!. It is about what it means to be human and indeed, whether that designation has any intrinsic importance at all.

The way I see it, when President Bush refused to okay both the federal government paying for the destruction of embryos for use in ESCR and for stem cell research in which the embryos were destroyed in anticipation of receiving federal grants, he powerfully conveyed a simple but profound message: Being human matters. It is important. Even the earliest developing human beings, at their most nascent stages, have moral value. And that assertion sets some people into orbit because it means that there are limits, and even more controversially, because President Bush is stating that science is not the be all and end all of what is right, just, and important in society.

Bush's policy has also unleashed a tremendous amount of creative thinking that seek to obtain all the benefits hoped for in ESCR and human research cloning, but without the tremendous ethical cost. My friend Bill Hurlbut and others are promoting altered nuclear transfer (ANT) as a potential way to obtain pluripotent cells without creating or destroying embryos. Some Japanese scientists have regressed rat skin cells back to an embryonic state, which could mean that every therapeutic hope asserted for cloning could be achieved through entirely ethical and uncontroversial means. Scientists want to work with embryos that have died. And this new proposal by a U.S. Senator, about which I do not yet take a position, urges that we use embryos that cannot possibly develop due to defects, for obtaining ES cells.

These and other proposals offer the potential to bridge the gap between naked science and what many see as an ethical imperative. None of it would have happened, in my view, had not one politician retained the courage of his convictions. But for President Bush's stem cell funding policy, I am convinced that by now scientists would be learning how to do human cloning on the federal dime, and we would be arguing about the propriety of using late stage embryos and early fetuses in biotechnological research.

We still may have that argument someday. But to get from here to there, we have to agree that nascent human life doesn't matter much at all. President Bush is standing in the way of that meme. And that is the real reason why a mere funding policy has sparked so much flame and fury.

New Jersey to Pay $270 Million for Stem Cell Research?

NJ, the state that has a law permitting human cloned fetal farming to the very point of birth, look like it will devote hundreds of millions to stem cell research--not all embryonic. Given that California will be pouring in $3 billion into ESCR and human cloning research, other states are ponying up, and the Feds put in tens of millions each year to human ESCR, I am growing very weary of "the scientists" grousing that they are being prevented from their work by Bush.

Most of this is driven by money, not compassion. The brilliant CURES! CURES! CURES! propaganda blitz by Big Biotech--funded to the tune of tens of millions annually and with the MSM carrying the industry's water for free--has convinced lawmakers that unless they throw bounteous free money at this research, their states economies will suffer.

Meanwhile, people don't have health insurance, emergency rooms close, and many current needs go wanting--not to mention that African children still die of measles and malaria.

But corporate welfare is going strong. And when the bust comes--if it comes--at least the private investors that are shunning ESCR and cloning in droves won't be hurt. The taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mendacious Amendment 2 Supporters Threaten to Sue Because Opponents Tell the Truth

The hubris and arrogance of Missouri's Amendment 2 crowd apparently knows no limits. Having poured around $20 million into their campaign to convince Missouri voters they are outlawing human cloning when they are actually trying to create a constitutional amendment to protect it, they have apparently now threatened to sue opponents for pointing out this truth in a television ad and to prevent television stations from airing the ads. The threat apparently, and it is an empty one, is to sue for slander. But truth is an absolute defense to that tort.

This bullying tactic is known in the trade as a threatened Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, or SLAPP. (Ralph Nader and I exposed this power tactic in our book No Contest: Corporate Lawyers and the Perversion of Justice in America.) What the Amendment 2 crowd really seeks is a one-sided debate in which only they get to speak. More proof that the cloners are contemptuous of true democracy in general and disrespectful of Missouri voters. The Show Me State should show them the door.

No Wonder Disabled People See Themselves as Assisted Suicide Targets

This story out of the UK speaks volumes about how devalued the lives of disabled people are becoming. Gillian March had progressive multiple sclerosis, a very difficult disease that not only leads to increased disability, but often depression. She decided she wanted to kill herself--so that her husband could go on with his life. She had tried several times before, and on the last occasion, her husband came home and tightened the seal around the plastic bag she had put over her head. He plead guilty to assisting her suicide and received no meaningful punishment.

What struck me about this story is the lack of apparent interest in suicide prevention or treatment for March's depression. Perhaps her doctors had tried. We don't know because curiously, the issue is never raised in the story--creating an (intended?) subtext that seems to proclaim, "Of course she wanted to be dead. Who wouldn't?"

Needless to say the euthanasia crowd supported the tap on the wrist even though Gillian March was not terminally ill. No wonder so many disabled people see themselves in the cross hairs of the euthanasia movement.

Cancer Killing Viruses?

I bring this very hopeful story up, not so much because of its substance, although it is a very hopeful apparent breakthrough. Rather, I want to illustrate an important point: In all of the brouhaha over cloning and embryonic stem cell research, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that most biotechnological research is not controversial, and indeed, is moving forward steadily to develop potentially outstanding therapies. And I am not just writing about adult stem cells. It appears that South Korean researchers have genetically engineered a virus that destroys cancer cells but does not harm healthy tissues. What a splendid approach to treating one of the banes of human existence.

In state debate after state debate, we hear that unless biotechnologists are allowed to clone to their hearts' content, patients won't be cured, economies will collapse, and the "theocrats" will return us to a dark age of barbers treating patients with leaches. (I made that last statement up.) But so much is happening beyond the cloning controversy that belies these assertions. Unfortunately, most of the good that non controversial biotechnological research is developing receives only subdued coverage. After all, a virus that destroys cancer cells won't undermine the Bush embryonic stem cell funding policy.

Secondhand Smoke's 10,000 Friends

To my great delight and surprise, I have learned that there are about 10,000 discreet visits to Secondhand Smoke per month, with people checking in literally from every continent except Antarctica. Better yet, since I have been keeping track, the numbers seem to be slowly, but steadily, growing. True, it ain't the Daily Kos or Little Green Footballs--yet--but I am most pleased. Spread the word. The issues we discuss here could not be more important. And thank you all for visiting Secondhand Smoke.

More Political-Scientist Word Games

In order to win the raging political debate over human cloning, political-scientists have determined that they should stop using the "C-word," cloning, to describe their agenda and replace it with somatic cell nuclear transfer. This is the mendacious tactic used in Missouri, for example, which claims to outlaw human cloning but which actually explicitly legalizes human somatic cell nuclear transfer.

The reason for this has been clear for a long time: poll numbers change depending on how a question is worded. Thus, as reported in New Scientist, polling shows that if the word cloning is used, majorities oppose it--even for use in stem cell research. But call cloning by the SCNT term, and popular support increases. (Hence, in the fight over Proposition 71 in California, proponents said it outlawed cloning--by which they meant the birth of a cloned baby--but legalized the same procedure, called somatic cell nuclear transfer, for use in scientific research.)

Word games work when the populace is ignorant. Our job as opponents of human SCNT cloning then, is to educate the people that SCNT = human cloning. If we can succeed at that admittedly daunting task, we will eventually prevail in this crucial international ethical debate.

Fighting Back Against Mendacious Amendment 2

Here is an ad against Missouri's mendacious Amendment 2: a measure that is "too slick, too deceptive, too tricky."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ouch! Maligned by "Dignity in Dying"

The UK euthanasia group "Dignity in Dying" worries that "the religious right is on the march." Reporting on the Toronto World Federation of Right to Die Societies Convention in its Autumn 2006 newsletter, we learn that my name apparently came up in the discussions. As usual, these purveyors of suicide and mercy killing got the facts totally wrong:

"Even more worrying for supporters of end-of-life choice, Wesley Smith, a prominent Creationist, is leading a drive to introduce legislation in many states that will legalize forced feeding of dying patients. The 'religious right' is also looking to strike down living wills wherever they can, thereby thwarting the patient's right to choice."

As Jack Benny used to say, "Well!" First, not only am I not a "prominent" Creationist, in fact, I am not a Creationist at all. Nor do I discuss religion in my work, much less express any opinions about the origin of humankind. Second, I support the signing of advance medical directives, and if you doubt it, read Forced Exit or Culture of Death. Moreover, I have signed one. Third, I am not leading any efforts in any states to require forced feeding of dying patients. I was part of an effort, the Nebraska Humane Care Amendment, that was designed primarily to prevent discrimination against disabled and dying people by first, outlawing futile care theory deprivation of wanted food and water, and second, requiring that the removal of food and water from incapacitated patients designed to cause death only be done if the patient had signed an advance directive so instructing.

At least they spelled my name right.

That "Tricky" Missouri Amendment 2

Missouri voters are being treated to what may be the most expensive initiative campaign in the state's history--almost all from out the wallet of one man, financier James Stowers. There is no question that Stowers has done some wonderful things for MO. But now, he wants something for that man who already has everything: His very own constitutional amendment legalizing human cloning research. And the Yes on 2 campaign has too little respect for the Show Me State's voters to tell them the truth.

So that task now falls to the opponents, such as Missourians Against Human Cloning. Opponents are being way outspent, not having a campaign sugar daddy. But they are keeping the yes vote on the Amendment close to the 50% approval rating, down from above 60 earlier in the year. And so it's tough but the game is definitely afoot.

For those interested, a new Web site has just entered cyberspace that describes the mendacious aspects of that "Tricky" Amendment 2.

Using Shameless Emotionalism to Gain Access to the Public Trough

Walsh Stem Cell

The ad represents everything people hate about politics. First, it is dishonest. It has a woman claiming she will get Alzheimer's in twenty years, strongly implying that ES cells could cure her. But, it is well known that ESCR is highly unlikely to provide a cure for Alzheimer's disease. One notable researcher even stated that "people need a fairy tale" as the reason the biotech sector is generally permitting people to believe this falsehood about ESCR--sheer mendacity promoted blatantly in this ad.

Second, notice the hubris. Last year the Feds shelled out about $50 million for human ESCR. Yet, the ad has a little girl accuse the Congressman being attacked in the ad for refusing to overturn President Bush's policy, as somehow "deciding who lives and who dies." Well if that is true, than any spending under the levels "the scientists" want, is deciding who lives and who dies. Moreover, the Congressman's vote was not "against" federal funding of ESCR, but to preserve President Bush's existing policy. That is not the same thing at all.

Third, as usual the tremendous advances occurring in adult stem cell research are utterly ignored by the ad, which thereby implies that ESCR is the only hope. For example, mice have been cured of the very kind of diabetes that the little girl in the ad says she has, and using adult stem cells and other bodily substances, not embryonic sources. The FDA has approved human trials, but the Harvard scientists can't find enough funding to begin.

Be very clear: This ad is not about "science." It is not about "cures." It is about the values of the bioethics/biotech community prevailing in the political arena and about opening the spigot to billions of taxpayer dollars to vested financial interests. And to get from here to there, it unashamedly exploits the anguish of disease sufferers and their families.

Shameful, but alas, probably effective.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oregon Department of Human Services Against Assisted Suicide!

No, not the act of a doctor lethally prescribing poison to a patient for use in suicide. Rather, the Department of Human Services--ever compliant with assisted suicide advocacy goals--will now call the act of doctors lethally prescribing overdoses of drugs for use in suicide, "physician-assisted death."

This is so par for the course in Oregon. The Department claims to be neutral about Oregon's peculiar institution, but it is so in the tank with the assisted suicide advocates' agendas. For example, the first few years of assisted suicide in Oregon, the statistical analysis published by the Department--based on self reporting of the prescribing death doctors--showed that some doctors refused to issue a lethal prescription when asked. To get the lethal prescription, some patients just went doctor shopping, generally finding doctors referred by assisted suicide advocates to write the prescriptions.

The Department received information from death doctors, but not those physicians who refused to help kill their patients. But at least when opponents of the law pointed out this little flaw in record keeping out, the Department acted: No, of course it didn't call the refusing doctors to find out more information about these patients. It merely stopped publishing the specifics about the number of doctors who refused to aid in suicide.

This is just further proof of what we have seen since the law went into effect: When it comes to assisted suicide, the policy of the Oregon Department of Health is to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak in euphemisms. Pathetic.

SHAC Leader Shows Dominant Face of Animal Liberationists

I have been criticized for focusing on the violent animal liberationists (SHAC, ALF) here at Secondhand Smoke, and those liberationists who refuse to condemn such violence (PETA). So, I recently featured Gary Francione, an animal liberationist who adamantly rejects violence, both here and at the First Things blog (scroll to September 12 entry).

But Francione has always seemed to me to be the notable exception among liberationist leaders, not the rule. Evidence of his minority status is found in this alarming interview with a SHAC activist named Pamelyn Ferdin, who even rails irrationally against animal "disenfranchisement" (they should vote?), animal welfare activism (a waste of time), and who is so lost in her rage that she clearly doesn't understand the crucial differences between peaceful protest and civil disobedience, versus lawless terrorism.

Here is her whiny complaint in the on-line journal The Abolitionist regarding increasing law enforcement and civil litigation to prevent SHAC-style animal rights thuggery: "There is a witch hunt against anyone in the States or even abroad who is being effective on behalf of a cause that threatens someone's profits. The SHAC campaign has been very effective world-wide, and whenever a campaign to change something that will force people to have to alter what they are used to doing, there is a backlash. Animal Rights campaigns that are effective are the most threatening because many of the campaigns target companies making billions of dollars off the exploitation, oppression and torture of animals."

But legitimate (if misguided) animal liberation activities such as picketing, passing out leaflets, boycotts, and the like are not the protest activities that has caused SHAC to justifiably become the focus of FBI and other law enforcement actions. As reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center--hardly a bastion of capitalist conspiracies, this is the kind of activity which landed several SHAC activists justly in prison:

"According to the federal government's lengthy criminal indictment, the SHAC USA Web site encouraged members and sympathizers to engage in 'direct action'--activities that 'operate outside the confines of the legal system.' SHAC USA suggested 'top 20 terror tactics,' including threatening to injure or kill a person's family members, assaulting a person by spraying cleaning fluid in their eyes, vandalizing or flooding a person's home, firebombing a person's car, breaking the windows of a person's home while family members are inside, and sending e-mail "bombs" to crash computers. (My emphasis)

This is pure criminality. In a country based on the rule of law, it is completely beyond the pale. Participating and conspiring SHAC criminals belong in jail.

Post Script: Ferdin's husband, Jerry Vlasak, has justified murder in the name of animal liberation.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Secondhand Smoke and the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity Team Up

The good people over at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity have asked me to comment on the CBHD blog and for permission to republish some of what I write here at Secondhand Smoke. It was my distinct pleasure to agree. So, starting now, you can also find me at bioethics.com, as well as entries from other thinkers in bioethics who support the equality of human life approach. Thanks CBHD! Your confidence means a lot.

Lying to Missouri Voters About Cloning Works

I have been doing some radio to MO to discuss Amendment 2, which would create an explicit state constitutional right to conduct human cloning research via the somatic cell nuclear transfer procedure. The proponents of Amendment 2 claim to ban human cloning, which is false. But the lie is working. Here is a letter I received today from a Missouri resident and my response. Since it is a private communication, I leave my correspondent anonymous:


This is the actual amendment. As it says, there will be no cloning or cloning research. In fact, it outlaws it. I respect the fact that you have your own opinion and I encourage you to stand by what you believe, but please do not misinform others on what the amendment is about."

Here is my response:

"It isn't a matter of opinion, but scientific fact.

They redefined cloning away from its scientific meaning and into a deceptive, and inaccurate advocacy or political meaning. They call cloning the implantation of the product of SCNT (which is an embryo) rather than the actual creation of the cloned embryo. That is junk biology and profoundly deceptive. The actual act of cloning is SCNT. That is what generates new life "asexually." The initiative redefines the term, so it is inaccurate, to fool the voters. That is how they "ban" cloning when they actually legalize it.

I could define the sky as yellow, or define a stink bug to be a butterfly in legislation. But the sky would still be blue and the stinkbug would still be a stink bug.

You may not care. You may want to legalize what is sometimes called therapeutic cloning. But don't accuse me of being inaccurate for pointing out to you that they don't respect you enough--assuming you are a MO voter--to tell you the facts so you can decide how to vote based on accurate information.


I am not blaming my confused correspondent. Most people are ignorant about the science involved in these matters. That is why it is so important for the science sector to be candid and factual about what they want to do and why--so people can make decisions about ethics based on accurate information. Unfortunately, in this worldwide controversy, accuracy and truth are precisely what the science sector generally refuses to provide because they worry if they are honest and candid, they will lose the debate. So, as my correspondent's note demonstrates, lying works--particularly when the media are willing accomplices.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Scientists and Engineers for Politics

The SEA (Scientists and Engineers for America), a political advocacy committee, is holding a contest to see who can create the best internet commercial for "science." No prizes, though. Here is the pitch: "Help SEA create...change by participating in our challenge to make a commercial that encourages participation in SEA and the restoration of scientific integrity through political activism. It can include major issues in science policy and information about SEA or anything else you think should be in it. Have fun and be creative.

Please include the SEA logo at least once in the piece, preferably at the beginning and end. You can download it HERE. You can use video, FLASH, whatever you like. To enter, load your commercial onto YouTube with the tag SEforA and e-mail them to us at AdContest@SEforA.org.

SEA members will vote on the best commercial. The winner will receive nothing but our eternal gratitude, the pleasure of seeing their commercial spread across the Internet and the first printing of the highly anticipated, universally requested SEA T-Shirt. SEA will promote the winning commercial or commercials through an aggressive campaign designed to turnout voters on November 7th."

Be clear: This PAC is not about defending the "integrity of science." It is about electing politicians who will vote to put billions into scientists' pockets and support political goals--that swing from the left--which the creators of this PAC want to see enacted. But I'll bet the t-shirt will be worth the price of admission--which is free.

German Mass Grave of Disabled Euthanasia Victims Found

A mass grave of disabled people, including children with Down's syndrome, has been found in Germany. We shudder at the thought of the carnage but avert our eyes at contemporary eugenics advocacy of the kind that led doctors--not just Nazis--to justify the murder of disabled babies and other people. Indeed, advocacy on behalf of eugenic infanticide is now deemed so legitimate that proponents even get to teach at prestigious universities such as Princeton. The North Koreans are apparently slaughtering disabled children and the world is silent. Meanwhile, the Dutch Parliament is on the verge of legalizing killing babies born with severe birth anomalies, a practice already tolerated by the government, and they are deemed among our most enlightened nations. And we, who give so much support to the Special Olympics, think it is peachy keen that most babies with Down syndrome are not allowed to live until birth. As the old song has it, everything old is new again.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

North Korea Kills Disabled Infants

I knew it! According to the Sunday Times (London), North Korea kills disabled infants and has a virulent eugenics policy. "The latest description of Kim Jong-il's policy of state eugenics came from a North Korean doctor," A story in the Times states, "Ri Kwang-chol, who escaped last year and told a forum in Seoul that babies with deformities were killed soon after birth. 'There are no people with physical defects in North Korea,' Ri said. Such babies were put to death by medical staff and buried quickly, he claimed. He denied ever committing the act himself."

Gruesome details in the story depict the most vicious murders of helpless babies. It is an awful read.

The world once promised, "Never again!" But, it didn't really mean it. It would rather be comfortable than do the right thing. For shame!

Friday, October 13, 2006

This is What Radical Animal Rights Activists Consider Free Speech

A California Appeals Court has rejected an appeal against a lawsuit filed by Chiron Corporation seeking damages and other legal remedies against Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, USA (SHAC) for harassment and invasion of privacy, based on supposed first amendment grounds. Here is what the animal liberationists apparently consider "free speech," as described in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"The court said the animal rights group announced in 2003 that Chiron was a target of its campaign against Huntingdon, and posted the names, addresses, home phones and bank account information of Chiron employees on its Web site.

"In May 2003, the court said, someone went to the homes of company chairman Sean Lance and two other executives in the middle of the night, shouted slogans, left screeching alarms in their yards and took other harassing actions, such as smearing animal feces on a house. The visits were repeated and were accompanied by late-night phone calls and e-mails, the court said.

"After two pipe bombs exploded at Chiron's headquarters in August 2003, the court said, the animal rights group posted links to threatening statements by an organization that claimed responsibility. No one was hurt in the explosions, and damage was minor.

In August 2004, after the suit was filed, about 35 demonstrators went to the home of Chiron's chief lawyer, William Green, and smashed several windows. The organization had previously posted a message instructing members to gather for a 'home demonstration' that weekend, the court said."

Free speech my big toenail. Good for the Court of Appeals.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Euthanasia NOT About Terminal Illness

Here is proof positive that the international drive to legalize assisted suicide/euthanasia is not really about terminal illness. The World Federation of Right to Die Societies has reissued its "Manifesto." Here it is in full. I will discuss the italicized portions of the Manifesto below:

"The World Federation of Right to Die Societies (an international nongovernmental organization) is aware of the increasing concern to many individuals over their right to die with dignity. Believing in the rights and freedom of all persons, we affirm this right to die with dignity, meaning in peace and without suffering. All competent adults--regardless of their nationalities, professions, religious beliefs, and ethical and political views--who are suffering unbearably from incurable illnesses should have the possibility of various choices at the end of their life. Death is unavoidable. We strongly believe that the manner and time of dying should be left to the decision of the individual, assuming such demands do not result in harm to society other than the sadness associated with death.

"The voluntarily expressed will of individuals, once they are fully informed of their diagnosis, prognosis and available means of relief, should be respected by all concerned as an expression of intrinsic human rights."

Notice that all competent adults with an "incurable" illness are supposed to have this right. That is not the same thing as a terminal illness. Arthritis is incurable. Asymptomatic HIV infection is incurable. So may be bi-polar disease. Thus, the Manifesto is a call for establishing an almost open-ended right throuighout the world for death on demand.

The legalization of assisted suicide/euthanasia would, by definition, harm society. It corrupts the purposes of medicine, it discriminates against the vulnerable by permitting the facilitation of some suicides, while requiring the prevention of others, and it opens the door to the fall of a steep moral cliff as has occurred in the Netherlands where, after 30 years of euthanasia, the parliament will soon legalize eugenic infanticide.

Pet Cloning Company Closes

I could be wrong, but I suspect that all of this money being thrown at research cloning could end up in a new "dot-com" type bust--only this time with public money since private investors are generally shunning investing in cloning companies.

This story that a pet cloning company has closed its doors adds credence to my views. Cloning is a difficult and expensive technology, even more so in humans than in animals. If after we "invest" billions into cloning research and it is a bust, who will pay the price? Taxpayers!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I Take on Missouri Amendment 2 and Other Cloning Agendas in This Radio Interview

I was interviewed for an hour today on KKSZ, "The Eagle," out of Columbia, Missouri about Amendment 2, the initiative that would create a constitutional amendment in MO to do human cloning research. I blistered the proponents for their disingenuous advocacy and discuss other issues, such as the "anything goes" mentality that I believe has infected the biotech sector. If you have a spare hour, check it out.

The Euthanasia Blues

Euthanasia Blues

This disability rights video protest song, written by Norman Kunc, is a withering critique of the euthanasia movement. Check it out! (Here is a link to Kunc's WEB site.)

Peter Singer Supports Eugenics

We shouldn't be surprised that Princeton's bioethics professor Peter Singer supports genetic engineering of progeny--as he does in this article. After all, Singer rejects the idea that human life has intrinsic value and supports infanticide of babies up to one year of age based on whether keeping the baby would serve the interests of the family.

As to the fear of genetic engineering bringing back the discredited eugenics mindset, Singer breezily dismisses the prospect. He sophistically compares genetically enhancing our children as being equivalent to giving them expensive educational toys "to maximize their learning potential." He then seeks to distinguish the horror that eugenics spawned in the past with the great benefit we can achieve if we but embrace the potential of a new eugenics: "Many will condemn this as a resurgence of 'eugenics,' the view, especially popular in the early twentieth century, that hereditary traits should be improved through active intervention. So it is, in a way, and in the hands of authoritarian regimes, genetic selection could resemble the evils of earlier forms of eugenics, with their advocacy of odious, pseudoscientific official policies, particularly concerning 'racial hygiene.' In liberal, market driven societies, however, eugenics will not be coercively imposed by the state for the collective good. Instead, it will be the outcome of parental choice and the workings of the free market." The primary problem, for Singer in such a system would be that the rich would be able to afford to enhance their kids, while the poor could not.

Singer's analysis conveniently forgets that eugenics-inspired forced sterilization was first imposed on the "unfit" here in the United States as a direct result of democratic processes. These laws were explicitly upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the infamous 1927 case of Buck v. Bell in which Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, "Three generations of idiots is enough." The Nazis actually imported much of their racial hygiene laws from us. Thus, free societies certainly do not provide an inoculation against the pernicious effects of eugenics.

Secondly, the idea that laissez faire eugenics would victimize no one ignores the almost irresistable power of peer pressure. Even if the law did not require enhancement of children (and the concomitant eradication of the less intelligent or talented, whether through abortion or infanticide), the pressure would be on to do just that--a genetic arms race that Singer acknowledges could arise.

Finally, eugenics consciousness would almost inevitably lead to evil, not because it was voluntary or government-mandated, but rather, because at its core eugenics rejects the intrinsic, equal value of human life. Once that philosophical step is taken, who thrives and who is oppressed becomes merely a matter of who has the political power to decide.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Doctors Arrested for Illegally Experimenting on the Elderly

In a terrible irony, four Israeli doctors have been arrested for conducting unethical medical experiments on the elderly. I keep warning that when we lose sight of the crucial understanding that each human has intrinsic value simply and merely because he or she is human, terrible consequences follow. Stories like this are early storm warnings of that truth.

A "Harvestable" Child Harvestable No More

We hear continually from the elites of bioethics about how people diagnosed as permanently unconscious (persistent vegetative state, or PVS), are no longer persons, and thus, they can be treated as if they were not fully human. That is abhorrent in any event, but the PVS diagnosis is often wrong, as in this case of a young boy named Devon Rivers who was apparently unconscious for 22 months and then, unexpectedly awakened.

We will now undoubtedly hear much dissembling from this sector that Devon wasn't really PVS and all that jazz. But these pushers of crass utilitarianism are on record as advocating that profoundly disabled people like Devon can, in some cases, should, be made to die by having their feeding tubes removed. Some assert that people in PVS are actually "dead" and thus can be used for organ harvesting. Others, would use patients like Devon--who they would have claimed was not really a patient when doctors thought he was permanently unconscious--are perfectly suitable for medical experimentation.

This is the key point: None of us is expendable. None of us should be viewed as a mere thing to be used for the benefit of others. There should be no disposable human caste. This is true of Devon and every other PVS patient whether they awaken or not.

Monday, October 09, 2006

THE SCIENTIST Defends Bush on Science

The Scientist (no link available) has written a courageous article--for this day and age--claiming that the Bush Administration aren't just a bunch of anti-science Luddites, after all. It is not my purpose here at Secondhand Smoke to boost President Bush. But as I wrote last week in my Daily Standard piece, many of the policy differences that allegedly make the President "anti-science" are actually legitimate differences of opinion about proper policy or ethics.

Here is perhaps the key paragraph from "Sizing Up Bush on Science," byline Alison McCook: "Part of what may be fueling many scientists' distress over the Bush administration's attitude to science is that many scientists don't understand that politicians have to consider more than just science, and take advice from more than just scientists. This is how policy works, notes [Jane] Lubchenco, now at Oregon State University. 'Some scientists seem to imply that 'if the science says X, then the policy should follow blindly.' And I don't think that's true,' she says. Scientists often act 'as if the science automatically tells you what you should do, which it doesn't,' and making a decision that's not responsive to scientific input doesn't necessarily mean a politician is 'anti-science,' notes Sarewitz."


The article also confirms something I have intuited: "The Scientists" have become part of the Democrat political coalition and that is reflected in their almost reflexive opposition to Bush Administration policies. From the article: "Scientists, by their actions, sometimes invite politicization, says [Roger] Pielke [director of the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the University of Colorado]. For instance, most scientists are Democrats and are public about it. In the 2004 election, the group 'Scientists and Engineers for Change' endorsed Democratic candidate John Kerry. When scientists publicly align themselves with Democrats, some Republicans may suspect scientists of having an agenda, says Pielke. Furthermore, Democratic scientists are more likely to criticize a Republican president, given that they likely disagree with him ideologically, not just about science, says [Daniel] Sarewitz [director of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University in Tempe]."

Of course, the truth that Bush is no different than most presidents when it comes to the politics of science will go utterly unremarked upon and unheeded by the mainstream media--who have agendas of their own. But good for McCook for setting the record straight.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Early Push for Reproductive Cloning

We are always assured by "the scientists" that they don't support "reproductive cloning," but only want a license to clone so that the asexually created embryos (for now, leading to fetuses later) can be researched upon. To some degree, that is true--but not because of any moral calculation. Reproductive cloning isn't "safe," meaning it would lead certainly to major birth defects, still births, and the deaths of birth mothers.

Yet, just beneath the radar, some already promote a right to reproductive cloning. As I detailed in Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World, many in bioethics believe that there is a fundamental right to procreate by any means desired, and hence, once it is "safe," they are all for reproductive cloning. This overlooks, of course, the long process of human experimentation on fetuses as well as embryos making it "safe" would require, but never mind. These nascent humans wouldn't be "persons" anyway, so they would be ours to do with as we saw fit.

Some already go even farther. A professor (aren't they all) from the University of Melbourne, Australia, has published a piece in the current Journal of Medical Ethics (where other writers are pushing for permanently unconscious patients to be used in human-to-animal organ transplant experiments--more about which I plan to write in the near future), proposing a "negative right" to do reproductive cloning as soon as the technology can be applied. He suggests at least two instances in which cloning through gestation to birth should be allowed now: 1) If it is the only way for a couple to generate genetically related offspring, 2) to create "savior" siblings. (Source: "Just another reproductive technology? The ethics of human reproductive cloning as an experimental medical procedure," D. Elsner, J Med Ethics 2006; 32:596-600) The apparent difference between a negative and a positive right? A positive rights requires public financing.

None of this surprises me. After some five years of dealing with the cloning issue, this is what I believe: Beneath the hedging, weasel modifiers, and passive prose that are hallmarks of bioethical advocacy, the axis of bioethicists/biotechnologists have an anything goes mentality about these issues. Some are more candid than others about this. Some speak about setting "reasonable limits"--but somehow these suggested impediments seem to always be about what cannot yet be done, not what can be done now or in the near future.

And this much I know: These advocates believe that "non person" homo sapiens have more importance as laboratory specimens than as humans. That mindset, as readers of this blog know, leads to some very dark and oppressive places.

Friday, October 06, 2006

More Anything Goes Science; Human/Rabbit Transgenic Embryos

So, UK scientists have petitioned the authorities to create human/rabbit embryos by injecting human cells into rabbit eggs with their nucleuses removed. If it works, this will create a mostly human but about 1% rabbit hybrid embryo. Given that Brave New Britain's authorities almost never say no to requests from the biotech sector, it is a good bet that the effort will receive the go-ahead.

There is much to say about this, but for now, let's just focus on hubris. Society is wrestling with the ethics and propriety of these "futuristic" technologies. It isn't helpful that the scientists are hyping the cures, misstating the biology and claiming they want the people's support--and billions in tax dollars--while also charging forward heedless of what the people might think. It is clear now, that "the scientists" have decided they know best and that the intrinsic importance of being human means very little to them, and they are going to do what they want and to heck with the public's moral sensibilities.

But amidst the outrageous hype, outright fraud, gross misrepresentations, spin, and tens of millions spent annually in propagandizing society to promote what amounts to unfettered biotechnology, these science uber alles types are losing sight of an important point: If they go too far, too fast, science could well lose the confidence of the people. If that happens, how long will it take for the sector to recover?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Science Continues to Devolve Into Mere Special Interest

I have a piece in today's Daily Standard, in which I point out that the prime politicizers of science, are the leaders of the science sector. And they have become such money grubbers! A new "science" political action committee has been formed, allegedly to protect science from political interference. But when I perused the WEB site of Scientists and Engineers for America (SEA), look what I found:

"A careful perusal of SEA's website reveals the organization's primary mission; vacuuming billions from public coffers into the science sector. In this sense, SEA is merely accelerating the ongoing metamorphosis of science into just another special interest willing to use all the political tools of the trade in order to gain increased access to the public trough.

"Thus, the SEA seeks 'increased federal and state-level public investment'--read, public spending--'in a balanced portfolio of research and development activities.' It further demands that the government 'remove inappropriate limits on stem cell research,' meaning dramatic increases in NIH grants for ESCR and public funding of human cloning research. It urges that public policy 'promote new partnerships between government-funded researchers and industry, including the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors'--in other words, time to ratchet up the corporate welfare! And it seeks 'an aggressive program of research and innovation incentives,' to promote more efficient energy use, which would, not coincidentally, provide substantial financial benefits to an increasingly powerful science-industrial complex."

To whipsaw itself into prominence, SEA grouses about "ideological" interference with science. But most of the "science" disputes SEA bemoans actually concern ethics and values, the proper answers to which cannot be found through scientific inquiry. Moreover, I point out, the science intelligentsia are just as ideological as those they oppose: The National Academy of Sciences, for example, supports creating embryos--whether naturally or through cloning--for use and destruction in research.

I conclude: "SEA claims to be advocating for science. But by crossing the crucial line that separates science from special interest advocacy--and by co-opting the coinage of accumulated community trust in science to achieve its own distinctly financial and ideological ends--SEA risks lowering the public's opinion of the scientific community. If that happens, these scientists will only have themselves to blame."

There's more, of course. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

PVS Patients: The New Human Guinea Pigs

First, utilitarian bioethicists wanted to redefine people with PVS as dead so they could be treated as so many organ farms ripe for the harvest. Now, several articles published in the misnamed Journal of Medical Ethics urge that patients diagnosed with PVS be used to as guinea pigs to see whether animal organs can be safely transplanted into humans, a field of study known as xenotransplantation.

I haven't read the whole articles, but plan to as soon as I can get my hands on them. But the abstracts are bad enough. See, here, here, here, and here.

The gist of the argument these writers make seems to be that if people consent ahead of time, once they become profoundly cognitively impaired, doctors should be allowed to take out their kidneys (perhaps transplanting them into someone else?) and replace them with pig or other animal organs to see if xenotransplantation is "safe."

This is deeply and profoundly wrong on so many levels, that I will not expound upon it fully here but will explore the matter fully in a more appropriate venue. For now, let me just state this: When we lose sight of the crucial ethical presumption that all humans have intrinsic value simply and merely because they are human, when we say that the value of a life depends on its presumed quality, we open the door to the worst forms of oppression and exploitation.

Consent ahead of time has nothing to do with it. The Nuremberg Code taught us that such human experiments are an ethical abomination. How soon we forget the lessons of history.

HT: BioEdge

Art Buchwald Leaves Hospice Because He Got Better

The humorist Art Buchwald has proved what hospice professionals will also tell you: Just because you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, it doesn't necessarily mean you are about to die. Buchwald has been in hospice for many months because it was thought his kidney ailment would end his life. Yet, even though he refused dialysis, he didn't die but got better. He is now out of hospice and writing his next book.

Buchwald reminds me of the first patient I cared for as a hospice volunteer. The first time I met Ernie, an elderly man expected to die of congestive heart failure, he fell into my arms crying, "I want to die! I want to die!" When I asked him why, he said he worried about burdening his son. About three months later, I lost Ernie, not because he died, but because he had so improved he was no longer qualified for hospice care.

And these two cases teach us an important lesson about assisted suicide. The Oregon law requires that a doctor believe that a patient will die within six months before issuing a poison prescription. (This isn't always adhered to, but that is a comment for another day.) What if Ernie had lived in Oregon when he said he wanted to die? His doctor might well have accommodated his desire not to be a burden by issuing a lethal prescription. Ernie might well have been dead before he knew he wasn't actually dying.

Barbara Coombs Lee of Hemlock Society (now renamed Compassion and Choices) likes to say that suicide by the dying isn't suicide because these people's lives are over anyway. Well tell that to Art Buchwald and Ernie. As that great philosopher Yogi Berra once said, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Senate Passes Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act

Good for the United States Senate (which, unfortunately, is not something one can say very often). It has passed the Animal Enterprises Terrorism Act, 100-0. (To view the entire bill, type S. 3880 in the appropriate box and hit the search function.)

If it becomes law, which seems likely, it provides: "Whoever travels in interstate or foreign commerce, or uses or causes to be used the mail...(1) for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise; and (2) in connection with such purpose, (A) intentionally damages, or causes the loss of any property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise, or any property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise; (B) intentionally places a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to that person, a member of the immediate family (as defined in section 115) of that person, or a spouse or intimate partner of that person by a course of conduct involving threats, acts of vandalism, property damage, criminal trespass, harassment, or intimidation; or C) conspires or attempts to do so; shall be punished as provided for in subsection (b)."

This is a good law, although I would prefer that it provide a bit more explicit protection against "tertiary targeting" in which these soon-to-be banned tactics are applied against an animal enterprise's insurance company, bank, or other provider of goods or services.

As you would expect, the liberationists who get a kick out of terrorizing law abiding citizens merely because they work for or do business with animal industries are whining that their constitutional rights are being infringed. One such concern was posted on this blog site, worrying that "People who participate in national boycotts against any animal enterprise are now subject to being charged with terrorism." Pure cow manure, of course. The bill explicitly states that "the term `economic damage'...(B) does not include any lawful economic disruption (including a lawful boycott) that results from lawful public, governmental, or business reaction to the disclosure of information about an animal enterprise."

Here is the bottom line: These faceless radicals can dish it out. They can laugh at terrorizing children and families. But when the law finally responds, they can't take it.