Monday, September 12, 2005

National Geographic

If you haven't seen it, go find it at your local library or elsewhere. National Geographic (July, 2005 issue) has an excellent story about the embryonic stem cell debate, explaining many aspects much better than I could hope to. And it is a very fair and balanced view of the topic, giving you a bit of both sides. Here's what the editor says about it...

"A story about stem cells is a story about hope, which my dictionary tells me is 'to cherish a desire.' For Dean Richardson, a former deputy sherriff in Canon City, CO, hope appeared in July 2003 when doctors at Northwestern University in Chicago treated him with stem cells from his own bone marrow in an attempt to break the grip of multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease that had confined him to a wheelchair. The treatment seems to have worked. Richardson's wheelchair is gone, along with any active signs of the disease. Similar therapies have shown promise for curing certain cancers and repairing hearts.

If debilitating illness can be conquered with stem cell therapy, why is it so controversial? Isn't it a medical miracle to be celebrated? Yes and no. Though we stand on the threshold of the realm of possibility, we are not yet inside it. The doors opened by science include one marked 'Moral Dilemma.' Many scientists believe that stem cells from human embryos offer even more hope for cures than the ones found in bone marrow--the kind that helped Dean Richardson. An editorial in the
New England Journal of Medicine called embryonic stem cell research 'the greatest biomedical promise of our time'. Yet to destroy embryos to create stem cell therapies is an unforgivable obstacle for many people. So ethical argument mixes with scientific process. Hope must break through the rhetoric.

My own hope, the desire I cherish, is that we can freely discuss the complex, sometimes uncomfortable, friction between science and ethics. That's what our stem cells story is all about."

Amen to that.

Maybe a snippet or two from the article in a bit...


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