Thursday, October 04, 2007

Please give me your eggs so we can make your sister better with stem cell therapy

Mildred K. Cho and David Magnus, both of Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University, have published an article that ought to be a cautionary warning to everyone who watches the human embryonic stem cell (hESC) debates. Note that Dr. Magnus, for one, is not an opponent of hESC. Another Stanford faculty member, cell biologist who is now directing a program in stem cells and society for SCBE, says of Dr. Magnus that "He gives them a hard-core introduction to Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill, and arms them with philosophical arguments they can use in the public policy arena," Scott says. 'Then, when they are challenged, they can say, 'I do understand the radical Catholic position, but here's a rebuttal to that.'"

So we would all be well advised to listen to what Cho and Magnus say about Therapeutic Misconception and Stem Cell Research.

Therapeutic misconception is the scientifically observable phenomenon that folks who sign medical consent forms often misunderstand the procedures or tests for which they are signing consent forms to be directly therapeutic when instead they are aimed at general research which increases knowledge but does not directly provide medical benefits to anyone.

Researchers are having a hard time getting egg donors for hESC rather than in-vitro fertilization. Potential egg donors seem not too motivated to go through the painful process of super-ovulation for the sake of producing eggs that will never, ever be babies.

Be on the lookout for what the campaigns for human egg donors begin to look like over the coming years. Look for researchers to woo, as donors, the sisters, mothers, and daughters of patients who suffer from diseases that "might be cured by hESC". Look for the media to tell us we can "help our friends and families who suffer from Alzheimers, Parkinson's" etc. if we altruistically donate our eggs to the cause of "stem cell therapies." At the moment, hESC research is in such infancy that scientists are nowhere near being able to design treatments or collect eggs for directly therapeutic use. Human embryonic stem cell research is still very much in the research phase.

On the other hand, if someone asks you to donate blood marrow or umbilical cords for stem cell therapies... they may very well be going directly to an adult stem cell therapy or treatment. Ask and you shall know.

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