By Nancy Reyes
February 19, 2009 -
President Obama has swiftly reversed the policies of the Bush administration to protect early human life, and there is no reason to think he will stop there.
First, he has reversed the "Mexico City Protocol", which means your tax dollars will not only fund abortions overseas but will allow powerful NGO's to bully Catholic and Islamic governments to legalize abortion and abortifactant contraception.
Second, he has stopped the HHS regulations that require clinics and other health care facilities to document that they are protecting the job rights of those working there who refuse to cooperate with abortion.
This may or may not have any effect, since laws doing this date back thirty years, but with the pro abortion folks promoting the "Freedom of Choice" act, one suspects that these older laws and regulations will be eliminated under the law in the near future.
But the final issue is the overturning the Bush era ban on federal funding of embyronic stem cell research, which the secular press reports may be coming any day.
I've seen several newspaper articles asking why President Obama hasn't yet won't reversed the "anti science" regulations of the Bush administration that prevent your tax dollars from being used for "stem cell research".
Let's just stop here for a few definitions.
Nobody really opposes stem cell research.The objection is to the killing of embryos to obtain "embryonic stem cells".
For Catholics and other religions, this is murder, but many secular ethical traditions also have objections to the killing of life, even a small early human life, to save life.
But ordinary stem cells? No problem. Docs have been using stem cells for years to treat diseases, and nearly every day another "breakthough" is reported. To illustrate the point, just last week there were three major treatment success reported with adult stem cell for treatment of MS, heart repair, and stroke.
In contrast, there are no approved treatments using embryonic stem cells.
Moreover there has been and continues to be safety concern, as highighted again this week when it was reported that a boy who had fetal stem cells injected into his brain to try to stop a fatal illness later developed dangerous tumors.
Stem cells don't have to come from embryos; they can be found in umbillical cords and cord blood from newborns. Slightly more mature stem cells come from the bone marrow, fat, hair follicles, and skin.
There are several advantages for using adult stem cells.
The first advantage is that they can come from the same patient, so you don't have to worry about DNA matching.
The much heralded "embryonic stem cell experiment" last week, where a newly developed stem cell line was being used experimentally to see if it would heal spinal cords, will require the patients to take immunosuppressive medicines, since the stem cells don't "match" the patient.
The second advantage of adult stem cells is that they can be obtained in large amounts, whereas each embryo only results in a small number of stem cells, which then have to be tissue cultured to grow more.
Why is this important? Well, it has to do with cells becoming "old". Older cells (that is, cells that have divided so many times) tend to mutate or even become cancerous. But if you start with a lot of stem cells, the individual cells don't have to divide so much to get enough to use.
But why insist on using the embryonic cells at all?
Scientists have long argued that "only" embryonic stem cells are pliable enough to be able to form just about anything your little heart desires.
But that argument is no longer true.
Two physicians who pioneered embryonic stem cell research, one American and one Japanese, developed moral qualms about what they were doing. So they discovered how to "re-program" the more mature adult stem cells into stem cells that essentially acted the same as embryonic ones.
This means that now scientists can easily get some of the patient's own stem cells, reprogram them to act like embryonic stem cells, and then put them to use. So, from a physician's standpoint, embryonic stem cell research is not needed.
Of course, some scientists argue "well, yes, but we should do it anyway just to learn how these things work"; but destroying human life just out of curiosity is a lot more evil than doing it with the excuse you want to save a life.
In summary, from a Catholic standpoint, embryonic stem cell research, which requires embryo destruction to obtain cells, destroys innocent human lives. Even the argument that such murder could potentially save another life would not justify the action.
However, recent discoveries make the use of such embryonic cells unnecessary, and indeed, their use to date has shown them to be more dangerous, and much less effectove than adult and other non-embryonic stem cells.
Nancy Reyes is a retired doctor living in the Phillipines. She is the author of a number of blogs including Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.