Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Pearl on Stem Cell Research

Since the bioethics news has been so serious lately, I thought we should take a break this week, and just enjoy my favorite (slightly warped) comic strip, Pearls Before Swine. This one is about stem cell research (just left click to enlarge).

I promise to return to my usual commentary next week!

Pearls Before Swine Web Site

Monday, March 19, 2007

Greeting Cards and Abortion

The latest in the abortion debate seems a bit bizarre. Exhale, a post-abortion counseling group, is now offering a variety of supportive E-cards to send to women who have recently undergone an abortion. The cards include attractive pictures of flowers or mountains. One version expresses the sentiment:
I think you're strong, smart, thoughtful, and caring. I believe in you and your ability to make the best decision. I think you did the right thing.
Another version:
There are no words to express my sympathy for your loss. As you grieve, remember that you are loved. I am thinking of you.
Which version should you send? I guess it depends on however the woman undergoing the abortion regards her actions. It does seem paradoxical to affirm abortion in one card, and yet see it as a great loss in another.

The Web site claims to be "non-judgmental." Links are provided to Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. I found no direct links to religious or pro-life resources.

Exhale Web site

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Aborting the Less-Than-Perfect

During early fetal development, sometimes the esophagus fails to develop normally, a condition known as esophageal atresia. This happens once in about 3500 pregnancies, and doctors can frequently diagnose this condition by ultrasound prior to birth.

Except that sometimes the doctors are wrong.

In a teaching hospital in Florence, Italy, a woman had an abortion 22 weeks into her pregnancy. She chose this course after two separate ultrasound exams failed to detect the stomach, which the physicians interpreted as evidence for esophageal atresia. After the abortion, the baby was born alive, and doctors realized that he was perfectly normal. Weighting just 500 grams, the baby is now fighting for life in a pediatric intensive care unit. Due to a brain hemorrhage from the attempted abortion, the child is not expected to survive.

Dr. Joe DeCook, a pro-life colleague of mine, put it this way:

Doctors should be really careful when they assume God-like wisdom, and intrude into the realm of suggesting preemptive death as a treatment.

Granted, the hospital claims that their doctors advised the woman to seek further diagnostic tests, and she chose additional input from a private clinic. Yet the physicians should have told her two things:

  • An ultrasound test can sometimes be misleading (as it was in this case)
  • Even if present, a malformed esophgus can be surgically repaired, with a high likelihood of a normal life afterward.

Given the circumstances, the Vatican newspaper said that the child's life had been "thrown away."

Daily Telegraph article

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Stemming the Tide of Controversy

A little bit of perspective can go a long way. If one believes the media, Dr. Catherine Verfaillie is a biased scientist whose research has significant flaws. Just as we suspected all along (they seem to say), the defects in her work "prove" that adult sources of stem cells are of no value, and we must push for federal funding of destructive embryo research.

Admittedly, there were some subtle errors in Dr. Verfaillie's study that caused her to be more modest in her conclusions. Yet her basic premise, that adult stem cells (ASCs) can generate all three of the basic germ layers (from which all other body cells are derived), is still completely supported by other studies. Michael Fumento, writing in the American Spectator, put it this way:

Pointing to flaws in Verfaillie's work to say that ASCs cannot develop into all three germ layers is like declaring that new revelations on the Wright Brothers' methodology call into question whether planes actually fly or that flaws in Thomas Edison's work indicate light bulbs may not light.
Dr. Verfaillie's research led to many other studies that duplicated and extended her work. Here's the actual score:
Adult Stem cells: 1300 clinical trials (over 70 approved treatments)
Embryonic Stem Cells: 0 (that's right, zero: still being tested in animals)
In recent weeks, we also have seen the underreported story that human amniotic fluid may produce "embryonic-like" stem cells that can become all of the tissues of adult organs (see my commentary on this). It seems that the hype and hysteria to destroy embryos for purely speculative gains is overriding common sense.

American Spectator article