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Research Facts Sheet

387-H01 Sociology of Health

First Name: Ninoska Last Name: Garcia-Ortiz

Student ID: 063 053 2 Date: March 19, 2007

Topic: Stem Cell Research

Research Question: Is it possible to protect the strict boundaries inherent in "the sanctity of life"

and still harvest these cells to help the living among us?

Theoretical Perspective: Social Conflict

Fact 1: RELIGION, THE LAW, AND MEDICAL ETHICS

"Those who support a total ban on embryonic stem cell research sometimes talk as

if theirs are the only views based on moral principle. But whatever else might be

said in response to their arguments, there is another moral ideal that is often lost in

this debate. This is, of course, the value of democracy...

...These democratic processes deserve protection from those, both inside and

outside parliament, who would seek to subvert them. And taking the value of

democracy seriously entails that legislation which ought to be passed will

sometimes not reflect a particular parliamentarian’s own moral convictions, no

matter how deeply they are held." (Oakley, 2002, pg. 228)

Interpretation of Fact 1:

To respect the sanctity of democracy, which is also based on moral principle, it is sometimes

necessary to put one's own personal beliefs aside. Those that are elected to government, are done

so in a democratic fashion, we therefore hope that the protection of democracy is something that

will never be compromised.

Fact 2:
"In the process of pursuing the elusive stem cell and its promise of universal healing,

we stand to gain important insight into the nature of human life itself. Along with our

obvious advances, we have evolved into a species with remarkably restricted

regenerative capacity. Our bodies have long lost the forethought of indefinite growth

possessed by the sequoia or the carp. Unlike starfish or newts, we can no longer

replace lost limbs. And as we grow older, our own aging populations of stem cells

cannot keep up with our failing bodies. We have paid a heavy price for our high

vantage point on the evolutionary tree. It remains to be seen whether a growing

understanding of our own phylogenetic limitations will be sufficiently profound to

overcome them. The Promethean prospect of eternal regeneration awaits us, while

time's vulture looks on." (Rosenthal, 2003, pg. 274)

Interpretation of Fact 2:

Stem cell research promises not only scientific and medical discoveries, but an insight into

human life. As humanity has evolved, we've lost the primitive ability to quickly and effectively

self regenerate. As we continue to evolve, the current ability of stem cells may also be lost.

Being at the top of the evolutionary pyramid has cost humanity an irreplaceable loss whose

necessity will only be evident as we continue to evolve.

Fact 3:

"A distinction between deriving and using derivatives, when expressed by reference

to the embryo rather than the investigator, is a distinction between killing and using

remains." (Guenin, 2005, p. 05)

Interpretation of Fact 3:

Is there a difference between creating a human embryo for research purposes or using the

remains of an embryo killed by a third party?


Fact 4:

"The science of human embryonic stem cells is in its infancy, and the current

policies threaten to starve the field at a critical stage." (Daley, 2004, pg. 627)

Interpretation of Fact 4:

This is an ironic metaphor. "Stem cell research" can be viewed as the "embryo" that is being

debated and the current "legislation and policies" viewed as the "researchers and scientists" that

destroy the preciously fragile. Both, stem cell research and the embryo are being prevented from

reaching their full, God intended potential.

Fact 5:

"Indeed, one could argue that governmental intervention in the scientific process

actually contributed to some of the problems: in South Korea, government officials

may have been complicit in motivating Hwang to publish prematurely. And in the

United States and elsewhere, governmental restrictions on funding for stem-cell

research have enabled a few well-funded investigators, such as Hwang, to fill the

void, establish a monopoly on certain procedures or knowledge, and deprive science

of what it needs most — an opportunity for the rapid, independent validation of

data." (Snyder & Loring, 2006, pg. 322)

Interpretation of Fact 5:

The fraud that occurred in South Korea has made the public realize that embryonic stem cell

research is not just a new branch of science, but also an untapped market potential. By claiming

ownership on technological advances, scientific methods are becoming commodities as opposed

to legacies of knowledge.

Fact 6:
"Deriving new cell lines by means of SCNT will require recruiting women to

donate oocytes, which have rarely been solicited for research purposes in this

country." (Okie, 2005, pg. 3)

Interpretation of Fact 6:

The reality is that to make an embryo, whether in the hopes of accomplishing a viable pregnancy,

or for the purpose of extracting it's genetic material, women are needed. This branch of science

would not exist without the web-weavers of life. Despite Women's equality movement, women

still remain the most socially vulnerable when it comes to workplace compensation. The fear is

that financially vulnerable women may resort to egg donation, which has serious risks associated

with it, as a way of supplementing their income.

Fact 7:

"Proposition 71, the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative, would

create the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which would allocate,

over a 10-year period, at least 90 percent of its funds as grants to academic

researchers in California through a competitive, peer-reviewed process that mimics

the approach of the NIH. Up to 10 percent of the funds would be awarded rapidly

— again in a competitive, merit-based process — for the construction or

development of scientific and medical research facilities where the research could

be conducted. A working group on scientific and medical accountability standards,

composed of ethicists and scientific and clinical experts, would establish rigorous

research and ethical standards..." (Yamamoto, 2004, pg. 1711)

Interpretation of Fact 7:

Due to legislation prohibiting NIH grants from funding Stem-Cell research on lines created after

2001, a coalition of citizens, scientists, and businesspeople put before the state of California a
proposition to establish a bond measure to provide state funds for human embryonic stem-cell

research at California's public and private academic research institutions. The granting of funds

would be done by a board of ethicists, scientific and clinical experts through a competitive peer

reviewed process.

Fact 8:

"The quality of the research is at issue as well. Brody worries that smaller states

won't be able to replicate rigorous grant peer review. Weissman is most concerned

that the considerable monies available could lead to the wasting of funding on sub-

par research. He advocates carrying the money forward until it can be well spent,

perhaps on expensive clinical trials that are years away." (Guenin, 2005, p. 07)

Interpretation of Fact 8:

Size is quality. Smaller states may waste allocated funds on inferior quality research, due to the

inability of appropriately determining grant merit. The suggestion is to hold the funds until a

more deserving, expensive trial comes along.

Fact 9:

"But even if all problems were overcome, would SCNT stem cells ever be a realistic

clinical option? Probably only for the very rich. Any such personalized treatment

will always remain labour intensive, and hence expensive." (McLaren, 2001, 131)

Interpretation of Fact 9:

The potential of stem-cell treatments could be endless. It could be the new "antibiotic" to cure

an endless list of afflictions plaguing humanity. However, like with the release of all new

technology, whether it's the introduction of CD burners in the 90's, or the holy grail of humanity

that stem-cell promises to be, they are usually accompanied by a price tag that is dismissed only

by the wealthy.
Fact 10:

"We really don't know what will ultimately come out of research on embryonic stem

cells. It is important to play down promises to the public that the work will produce

anything of clinical value in the foreseeable future. We simply don't know how an

embryonic stem cell will behave in a human, and we don't know whether human

marrow contains a pluripotent stem cell that can transdifferentiate. Equally

important, we don't yet know whether research on embryonic stem cells will teach

us how to revise the differentiation program of a tissue-specific stem cell, thereby

circumventing the need for embryonic cells." (Schwarts, 2006, pg. 1189)

Interpretation of Fact 10:

Stem cell research is such a new science, that perhaps it has been given more credit than it

deserves. Many terminally ill patients see the promise of stem cells as the only life saving

option. If this technology doesn't result in anything positive, it would be incredibly

disappointing to many. But the reality is that much is still unknown. Scientists cannot even

guarantee that embryonic stem cells from humans are more valuable than other stem cells.

Conclusion:

Democracy is a form of protection. The populations of democratic countries are secure in the

knowledge that important decisions will not be made on an individual basis, but will follow the

rules of debate, consideration and approval set up by that country. The ideals of democracy are

so cherished that wars have been waged and lives have been lost and sacrificed over it. An

imposition of ones personal beliefs and values, now matter how well intentioned, is a disregard

to democracy. Religion is democracy's "Anti-Christ". There is no room to question motives, in


some religions it's even considered a form of blasphemy. Social conflict was at it's peak during

the Dark Ages, when religion ruled through ignorance and fear. The Renaissance was not only a

rebirth of society, but the enlightenment of discovery. It was the beginning of the end of

Religion's vision of world domination. With enlightenment and discovery came education, and

the desire to enquire about the unknown, not fear it. The impoverished began to realize they

were the majority. As the centuries rolled forward, wars continued, however, they began to take

on a different tone. Blood was being spilled for democracy. It was after all, mostly the blood of

the impoverished. Why not spill it for something that you believe in?

Democracy became the foundation of balancing society. The rich would still continue to be rich,

however, they would not be able to impose their beliefs on the poor. Even religion, whether it is

a representative of Allah, Buddha, or Jesus, must also abide by Democracy's rules.

The laws of evolution state that as humanity advances, we are constantly trying to better and

ameliorate our standard of living. The quest for evolution has become so tunnel-vision that we

are almost indifferent to the consequences of our actions, and ignorantly claiming each advance

as a victory. We have failed to acknowledge that humanities evolutionary quest has resulted in

many interspeciary casualties, ranging from humans to microscopic life forms. We see the

prolonging of life as a medical advancement, and fail to recognize that death is an unavoidable

link in the chain of life. Stem cells hold much promise, but at what price?

In 1995, a piece of federal legislation passed by United States Congress, and signed by former

president Bill Clinton prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from using

appropriated funds for the creation of human embryos for research purposes or for research in

which human embryos are destroyed. The legislation, known as the Dickey Amendment, does

not provide a clause, or a prohibition against using the remains of embryos. The argument is that

researchers are not deriving (facilitating, or creating the creation or death of an embryo), but
merely using available derivatives (perhaps supplied by countries with no current legislation

against the creation and destruction of human embryos). Since the material being used has

already been killed, by no actions of the researchers, they should not be discriminated against in

regards to funding.

On August 9, 2001, American president George W. Bush, announced that research on human

embryonic stem cells created before that date would be supported by federal dollars; research on

lines created later would not. Since that announcement, there has been the creation of an

additional 128 lines from embryos carrying genetic diseases such as neurofibromatosis type 1,

Marfan's syndrome, the fragile X syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, and Fanconi's anemia.

Research on these novel lines can still go forward, however must do so without grant support

from the National Institutes of Health. The options that remain are to find funding from private

foundations or philanthropic sources. The private sources are under no obligation to direct

research in a non-discriminatory fashion.

What happens when health care research is turned over to private sources? It is no longer about

treating the sick, it becomes about stocks and trade prices, balancing the cost of production,

which in the case of stem cells includes research, and the race to be the first to claim

“ownership” on a discovery. Health care then becomes a game. And like in all games, there are

clean players, and there are dirty players.

In 2004, the laboratory of Woo Suk Hwang of Seoul National University in South Korea

announced that it had created embryonic stem cells that were genetically identical to the affected

patient, without having to fertilize the oocyte. This claim was more a technological than a

biological advance, and would permit the capability of generating lines that are immunologically

and genetically matched to patients who could then receive stem-cell transplants and of making

stem-cell lines for research that faithfully model human diseases. Within six months of this
publication, independent research concluded that Hwang’s claims were false. Speculations were

that the South Korean government was so eager to claim rights on discovery of this technology,

that they were increasing pressure on the laboratory.

As in all games, there are winners, and there are losers. In the South Korean example, it became

evident that the biggest losers were actually victims of coercion, and an ethical lapse of

confidentiality. It was later discovered that the lab not only used oocytes that were donated from

willing women, but also used those of members of the research team, which was not done under

voluntary circumstances. The procedure of oocyte is one that is not without danger.

In some countries, women egg donors are paid anywhere from $5000 to $25,000 per cycle. This

financial incentive may influence women to accept unnecessary risk. The most serious risk

being ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome which can be a result of the daily dose of recombinant

human follicle-stimulating hormone necessary to trigger the development of multiple ovarian

follicles. An ultrasound guided needle is inserted through the vagina, and the eggs extracted.

A twisted perspective, however one that cannot be ignored, is that from biblical times to present

day, men have been asking women to lay on their backs, either for their own gratification, or for

their scientific egos. Women can always count on employment in the oldest profession known to

man, regardless of their educational, social, or financial background. The customers of

prostitutes only require them to have female sex organs, and be physically desirable to them, at

that moment. The scientific customers only require donors to have female sex organs, and be of

desirable age.

Due to governments position and fears associated with embracing stem-cell research, it has left

the door wide open for independent groups to sink their talons into the delicate flesh of this new

science. With non-governmental groups directing the path of stem-cell research, there is no

promise of democracy, or even the guarantee that decisions will be made for the greater good.
It’s quite fearful to think that pharmaceutical industries sponsoring and financing this research

are capable of obscuring and hiding new discoveries that could potentially eradicate plaguing

diseases that currently exist. It is more profitable to market the life extending anti-viral

medications for HIV, which will ensure recurrent customers, promising them the hope that a cure

is within reach, than to market a one time cure, that requires no follow up.

"Stripped of ethical rationalizations and philosophical pretensions, a crime is anything that a

group in power chooses to prohibit." (Freda Adler, President of the American Criminological

Society for the 1994-1995 term) The obvious problem with allowing a board selected by a group

of citizens, scientist and businesspeople is who will be in the position to regulate their

appointment and their decisions. Research policies and protocols will always be influenced by

"who" is funding the project. The unfortunate reality is that the value of a human life has

become equivalent to a Monopoly dollar. A CEO of a company who's most recent acquisition is

a research institute conducting stem cell research based studies to eradicate Parkinson's Disease,

would find it more financially profitable to redirect studies towards a condition affecting 57% of

the male population, Alopecia, also known as male pattern baldness.

Who will determine what project are inferior? A committee consisting of members who's

children suffer from diabetes will obviously prioritize all projects focusing on diabetes research.

If a project is determined to be of greater importance, will funds being held by smaller states be

diverted to more pressing projects? Who is responsible for determining how funds should be

allocated? What assurance is there that these decisions are a reflection of the general population,

and not a personal interest? One fact that remains clear is that those who can, do. The answer to

these questions are irrelevant to those who can afford to travel to countries with more flexible

laws, where stem-cell research is not so strictly regulated. Laws turn a blind eye to those who
can pay for induced blindness. In society, these benefits have always, and will always be

afforded to those who can pay.


Works Cited

Daley, George Q., M.D., Ph.D. (2004). Missed Opportunities in Embryonic Stem-Cell Research
[Electronic version]. The New England Journal of Medicine, 627-628.

Guenin, Louis M. (2005, August 2). A Proposed Stem Cell Research Policy Stem Cells, DOI:
10.1634/stemcells.2005-0202. Retrieved February 24, 2007 from
http://stemcells.alphamedpress.org/cgi/reprint/2005-0202v1.pdf

McLaren, Anne (2001). Ethical and social considerations of stem cell research. Nature, 414, 129-
131. Retrieved March 3, 2007, 04:55 from https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-
bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v414/n6859/fig_tab/414129a
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Oakley, Dr. J. (2002). Democracy, embryonic stem cell research, and the Roman Catholic
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