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Saturday, May 16, 2009

The National Institutes of Health is asking for public commentary

This post is from Rick McGirr, who suffers with Parkinson's disease. Please read what he has to say:

The National Institutes of Health is asking for public commentary on the proposed changes in guidelines for the use of stem cells in medical research. The Obama administration wants to loosen the restrictions to allow use of certain stem cells, derived from excess embryos developed by fertility clinics in support of efforts by couples to conceive, with the consent of the persons owning the embryos, and when the embryos would otherwise be discarded.

This is by no means a large change, nor a wholesale reversal of the cautious position of the previous administration. But it would open the door for researchers to be supported by federal dollars as they carry on the noble work of finding cures and better treatments for millions of people who suffer from a wide array of diseases, like Juvenile Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, to name a few.

Surprising to some, there is much opposition to this change, a large portion of it coming from religious organizations. An example is the Catholic Church. This is the position of the US Conference of Bishops regarding the use of stem cells in medical research...

“NIH & Congress: Oppose Funding of Destructive Embryonic Stem Cell Research - Support Cures We Can All Live With!

Following President Obama's March 9 executive order, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has proposed guidelines for federally funded embryonic stem cell research. The guidelines would - for the first time - use taxpayer funds to encourage the killing of embryonic human beings for their stem cells.

This marks a new chapter in divorcing biomedical research from its necessary ethical foundation, respect for human life at all stages.

Embryonic stem cell research treats innocent human beings as mere sources of body parts, as commodities for our use.

Even if, like the embryos targeted by the NIH policy, an embryo may be at risk of being abandoned by his or her parents in a fertility clinic, that does not give researchers or the government a right to kill that human being - much less a right to make the rest of us subsidize that destructive agenda.

Some in Congress and the Administration want an even broader policy. They want to obtain stem cells by destroying human embryos specially generated for research through in vitro fertilization (IVF) or cloning procedures - a "create to kill" policy.

Neither of these policies is ethical or promotes responsible science. They both violate the fundamental right to life.

Patients suffering from devastating illnesses deserve our compassion and our committed response - but not at the cost of innocent life. The Church supports ethical stem cell research and treatments that do no harm and respect the inherent dignity of persons - cutting-edge medical advances that are already benefiting patients with dozens of conditions in clinical trials.

It is time to focus on cures and treatments we can all live with.”

Embryonic human beings?? Body parts?? Abandoned?? Create to kill?? Respect??

These are outrageous distortions of plain facts. It is obvious that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops must not have done due diligence, know nothing of medical research, have no respect for my life nor of the millions of other afflicted persons, know nothing about the true nature of the materials being made available by President Obama’s executive order, and are doing their own parishioners a great disservice, nay, dishonor by opposing what is clearly one of the most promising areas in the search for cures and better treatments of disease.

My friends, embryos can hardly be called human beings, any more than a germinated seed can be called a flower, or squash, or seaweed. I encourage you all to research what embryos are. There is no basis in law, in ethics, in morals, in history, in medicine, in science, nor even in the bible itself to speak against the use of embryonic stem cells for legitimate purposes of helping find cures for many diseases afflicting millions.

Even the suggestion that the microscopic group of cells as it sits in a Petri dish is indeed a human being brings up a shipload of difficult questions which have never arisen before, such as when to grant citizenship and constitutional protections. Such ridiculous scenarios play out as to make one’s head hurt.

Consider the status under law of those who would potentially benefit from a cure using stem cells. If these embryos are to be considered citizens, what does that do to the status of the millions who have been born, lived as autonomous beings, and who have suffered for years with a myriad of disorders? Are they to be granted no rights? Are their rights to be held in abeyance while we take pity on these poor little Petri dishes? Am I not as worthy of consideration in the eyes of God, or the US conference of Catholic Bishops?

Further, let me point out once more that these embryos are actually being saved from being garbage. That’s right, excess embryos created at fertility clinics are routinely discarded! How could this be allowed if embryos are people? If their use in research is not allowed, then there is nothing good that can be said of their existence, and millions of people with many illnesses will be relegated to a status lower than the medical waste in the dumpsters behind fertility clinics. Is my life or yours not sanctified? I have raised children, paid taxes, voted. I’m a citizen. Do I have no rights at all? Will I not be allowed the right to seek a cure for my Parkinson’s disease? Will doctors be barred from even pursuing a most promising area of research on the grounds of wholly non-scientific dogma which has no basis in science, law, or indeed any religious text?

Rest assured that careful government oversight of the use of these controversial cell lines will continue, and researchers will have to adhere to a very narrow code of ethical use of such materials.

The deadline for public comments is May 26, 2009. See links below for the NIH draft document itself, lots more information, and instructions on how to comment online.

However ill-informed the position of those opposed to stem cell research may be, make no mistake – the opposition is organized and mobilized. Every one of us will have to make our voices heard again and again in order to thwart this threat to our rights and our very well-being.

On behalf of the afflicted, I urge you to 1) read the backward, ignorant, anti-science view of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops 2) go to the web sites below to learn more about the changes being proposed 3) most importantly, I urge you to make your opinion known to the NIH, and to the Obama administration, and to your own elected officials on every level.

I have informed the NIH of my approval of robust federal support for this and all research which could lead to the alleviation of suffering for millions of people now living with horrible diseases that you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. I hope that you will do the same, and encourage your friends and family to do so as well. Thank you.

To read the draft policy:

For more information:

To give your opinion on what the NIH should do regarding ESCR:

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