For those who refuse to consider the moral implications of Embryonic Stem Cell research, and who believe in the fantasy rhetoric of the “stem cells will cure all ailments” crowd, Charles Krauthammer has just put you in your place.
Krauthammer’s politics may stand on the right side of centre, but his bio makes him a source beyond reproach. A trained Medical Doctor, Krauthammer became a paraplegic in a diving accident while studying at Harvard Medical School, and after practicing for several years, went to work for the Carter administration in the late 1970s, and has been a writer ever since. Always an advocate for continued research on discarded embryos from fertility treatments, but queasy about the ethical implications of obtaining future embryos and the possible treatment options available from embryonic stem cells, he now believes the argument is essentially moot, now that new research has shown that therapeautic stem cells can be produced from a simple cheek swab – and he exposes the ugly alliance between money-hungry medical researchers and ugly political partisans who exploited the hopes of suffering people by purposely ignoring the truth:
That Holy Grail has now been achieved. Largely because of the genius of Thomson and Yamanaka. And also because of the astonishing good fortune that nature requires only four injected genes to turn an ordinary adult skin cell into a magical stem cell that can become bone or brain or heart or liver.
But for one more reason as well. Because the moral disquiet that James Thomson always felt — and that George Bush forced the country to confront — helped lead him and others to find some ethically neutral way to produce stem cells. Providence then saw to it that the technique be so elegant and beautiful that scientific reasons alone will now incline even the most willful researchers to leave the human embryo alone.
Jonah Goldberg also celebrates the news of cheek-swab stem cells with a great column acknowledging Krauthammer’s prescience, and the press’s sudden move away from out-and-out advocacy:
At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Ron Reagan, the acclaimed dog show emcee, tried his hand at being an infomercial snake oil barker. “I am here tonight to talk about the issue of research into maybe the greatest breakthrough in our or any lifetime: the use of embryonic stem cells,” Reagan announced. After listing numerous diseases and injuries it could cure, Reagan delivered the pitch: “How’d you like to have your own personal biological repair kit standing by at the hospital? Sound like magic? Welcome to the future of medicine.”
“Wait! There’s more! Order your Biological Repair Kit in the next seven minutes, by voting 1-800-D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T, and you’ll receive a second repair kit at no additional cost, as well as this amazing two-in-one steak knife that can cut through your dignity and still be sharp enough to slice this tomato! Operators are standing by.”O.K., I exaggerate. But the tone wasn’t far off.
Reagan wasn’t alone, either. Then-vice presidential candidate John Edwards proclaimed in 2004, “If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) announced a few years earlier: “We must not say to millions of sick or injured human beings, ‘Go ahead and die, stay paralyzed, because we believe the blastocyst, the clump of cells, is more important than you are.’ … It is a sentence of death to millions of Americans.”
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), outraged by conservatives seeking to inject religion into politics, nonetheless proclaimed: “Mr. Speaker, the National Institutes of Health and Science hold the biblical power of a cure for us.”Cure for what? Cure for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. And soon!
How soon? Very soon. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D., Calif.) promised that “we stand on the brink of finding the cures to diseases that have plagued so many millions of Americans.”Columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is not only a doctor but also bound to a wheelchair because of the sort of spinal injury Democrats insinuated could be cured with a Democrat in the White House, said it well. This flimflammery was “a cruel deception perpetrated by cynical scientists and ignorant politicians. Its purpose is clear: to exploit the desperation of the sick to garner political support for ethically problematic biotechnology.”
And where was the press during this riot of false hope and cruel demagoguery, where politicians were in effect telling sick people they could vote for a cure for themselves or their loved ones? The short answer is that they were either on the Democratic bandwagon, or they were outside helping push it.When President Bush was grappling with embryonic stem cell research in 2001, Newsweek’s science correspondent, Sharon Begley, warned in a cover story that this might be “a cruel blow to millions of patients for whom embryonic stem cells might offer the last chance for health and life.”
Both columns are well worth the read – particularly for those who blindly followed the embryo-free-for-all advocates.