Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Wall Street Journal recently had an editorial about Bush's stem cell policy. They were basically making the case that GW's stand against stem cell research was really not a big deal, that private research could more than make up for the ban on federally-funded research.

As is usually the case with most of WSJ's editorials, I read the piece and felt my brain shrink. Where to start....

They write, "Recall what the President's August 2001 decision actually did. It allowed federal funding for research on existing stem-cell lines where, he said, 'the life and death decision has already been made.'" With the recent bipartisan bill passed, it was stipulated that those embryos in fertility clinics that were destined to be destroyed (and there's lots of these each year) could be used for research. So a "life and death decision has already been made" for these embryos: they're going to be incinerated. Why not instead use them for research and thus work towards extending life?

With regards to WSJ's contention that private R&D is still free to research all they want, that it's just federally-funded research that gets slapped, it's another instance of the Journal preaching with a lack of facts or knowledge. The fact is an enormous number of big breakthroughs in research have not come from private research but rather federally-funded research. It's a lesser know fact but the list of products that originally stemmed from research funded by you and I (as opposed to a Merck or Pfizer) is astounding. What these huge pharma companies often do is swoop in and buy the rights to such research after it's nearly finished so that they can then manufacture and market products to us. In effect, we then pay twice: we first pay for the research and we again pay for the final product.

But the point is most of these drugs would never have existed if not for federally-funded research. To assume otherwise, that private research would've completely replicated such discoveries is ludicrous -- particularly when you recognize that most pharma companies only want to allocate research dollars to low-risk/high-probability efforts, which results in things like Viagra. It's the federal research that focus more on the less-certain yet bolder efforts that frequently yield huge, meaningful payoffs.

The Journal states "the federal government has also made 22 fully developed embryonic stem-cell lines available," yet it doesn't mention Bush originally promised 60 lines, and many scientists say only 17 (not 22) are usable. Nice deletion.

The Journal then praises action being taken at the individual state level. (Have you noticed this trend by the way? Our federal government is so lacking and out of touch with the true concerns of citizens that states are picking up the ball). If the Journal praises such state-level initiative, then why the need for a federal ruling (Constit. amend.) on gay marriage? More hypocrisy from the right -- tough for them to stay consistent.

Polls show that most Americans favor their tax dollars being used for stem cell research -- as opposed to the Iraq war, where most Americans now oppose the occupation.

What more evidence does one need to see that GW is catering to a select group in this country (the religious right), a minority as opposed to the majority of Americans? A bitterly divided Congress was able to come together to pass a bipartisan bill on this subject, with 50 Republicans defying Bush/Rove/DeLay. It's become nakedly obvious to many in his own party that he's ventured too far in governing strictly to please one group of rapid voters.

What I love most is the delicious irony of seeing Arlen Specter spearhead the effort against Bush in this stem cell fight. Recall that Bush endorsed pro-choice Specter over pro-life Toomey in the PA Senate race last year. Hah! The pro-choice guy turns around and bites GW in the ass -- a thing of beauty! Reason and true concern for life trumps politics.

UPDATE: Another big problem with private R&D. This bought-and-paid-for research has been the focus of many of the recent recalls involving fatalities.

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