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Stem cell veto only moral thing to do.

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Gayle Atteberry For The Register-Guard

The Register-Guard deserves credit for the creativity of its July 19 editorial, `Stem cell stalemate.' Unfortunately, the editorial stooped to sarcasm and propagation of false information as it criticized President Bush's stance on funding embryonic stem cell research.

Foundational to the editors' argument is that the approved supply of embryos is no longer adequate. This is false. Not only are the current lines continuing to be used for experimentation, but the National Institutes of Health lists on its Web site approved lines that still have not been used.

The editorial also repeated the claim that there are `more than 400,000 discarded embryos awaiting destruction at fertility clinics in the United States." A study published in the May 2003 issue of Fertility and Sterility did state that there are almost 400,000 embryos being stored in U.S. fertility clinics. However, The Register-Guard failed to mention that 88.2 percent of those embryos are being held by families for future use. Only about 11,000 embryos are designated for research; out of those, less than 3 percent could produce usable embryonic stem cell lines.

The editorial scoffed at the value of human embryos because of their microscopic size. While it is true that embryos lack hands and feet, eyes to see or mouths to speak, embryos are as human as adults. The fact is, they look exactly like a human that age is supposed to look. They look just as we all looked - including the author of the editorial - at that age.

At his news conference, President Bush was joined by children who were adopted as embryos. Once categorized as leftovers and frozen in fertility clinics, these children were adopted as embryos and got a chance to grow.

As the president said, "These boys and girls are not spare parts. ... They remind us of what is lost when embryos are destroyed in the name of research. They remind us that we all begin our lives as a small collection of cells. And they remind us that in our zeal for new treatments and cures, America must never abandon our fundamental morals.'

There is a false perception that the veto outlawed embryonic stem cell research. President Bush did not veto such research; he vetoed paying for it with taxpayer dollars. He set no limits on private funding, and investors are free to pour in as much money as they desire.

But here's the problem: Very few investors are willing to continue funding embryonic stem cell research because it has failed to produce a single cure or treatment for humans. In fact, animal trials have yet to produce a single, sustained treatment in even one mouse.

Other stem cell research is thriving. Treatments using umbilical cord blood stem cells and other stem cells that can be harvested without the destruction of human life are being used daily to treat and cure people, and more such treatments are being discovered every day.

This is the kind of stem cell research the president and many Americans enthusiastically support - research that is working.

President Bush did not veto using taxpayer dollars for embryonic stem cell research in an attempt to be labeled `America's Most Righteous.' To quote the president:

"If this bill would have become law, American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to fund the deliberate destruction of human embryos. ... Crossing this line would be a mistake, and once crossed, we would find it almost impossible to turn back. Crossing the line would needlessly encourage a conflict between science and ethics that can only do damage to both, and to our nation as a whole. If we're to find the right ways to advance ethical medical research, we must also be willing, when necessary, to reject the wrong ways."

As we Americans pursue the common goal of finding cures for deadly diseases and debilitating injuries, let us do so factually and with a humble respect for the dignity of all humans, no matter what their size.

Gayle Atteberry of Eugene is executive director of Oregon Right to Life.
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Title Annotation:Commentary
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 28, 2006
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