Friday, February 3. 2006
This blog has a reader, Anuket of Anuket's Crusade with whom I have been having a lively discussion started off by the Clone the Truth campaign. He (I apologize if Anuket is a female) contends that if Clone the Truth was really about truth, I would be obliged to police half-truths and exaggerations on the pro-life side as well. I have explained that Clone the Truth is not about policing sides, but about making sure that the media, which is supposed to be neutral, gets the scientific facts correct.
Anuket sent me the following letter that he has submitted to the Clone the Truth campaign. I put it here for two reasons: 1. His letter is in response to an opinion column and as far as I can see the opinion column in question has no factual errors, so it is not entirely appropriate for Clone the Truth, and 2. because I feel he makes a great point that deserves its own entry. Here is his letter:
Anuket, I don't know about Mr. Bartholomew, but I certaining do. The Catholic Church has always been clear that IVF is unethical in part because of the moral conundrums surrounding what is to be done with all of the "left-over" embryos. You are correct that support for IVF means a de facto support for research on embryos. I like the following quote from Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, Ph.D., Director of Education of the National Catholic Bioethics Center:
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I wrote this as a response to someone raising the same objection on a forum:
Some European countries have laws regulating the number of embryos created per IVF cycle. People here would likely love the same. Would you push for a law that restricted the creation of embryos during IVF? Specifically, forbidding the creation of more embryos than will be implanted?
Was that a question was for me? I will assume that it is.
As a Catholic I find IVF in direct conflict with the dignity of the human person, specifically the idea that children are "products" of technology instead of precious gifts, so ideally I would want IVF to become a thing of the past.
But, as I would support any limit on abortion, I would support a law that would put restictions on the number of embryos created in the IVF process. Ideally, the law would allow for only one embryo to be created and implanted at a time.
The second part ("Would you push for a law that restricted the creation of embryos during IVF? Specifically, forbidding the creation of more embryos than will be implanted?") was to you. I tried offsetting the excerpt from another forum with blockquote HTML tags, but it failed and ran everything together.
Thank you for your answer. The debate would be lively if someone proposed your ideal law.
BTW, I would love to have an image I could add to my blog indicating my support for your campaign (similar to the 'Blogs for Life' image). Have you considered that?
A Clone the Truth banner is a great idea, but as I am a molecular biologist and not a programmer, (this blog is almost too much computer technology for me to handle) I am not sure how I would accomplish it. Are there free banner templates out there for us computer illiterates to use?
I do not know of any web services that can make them automagically. I have some rudimentary abilities, but nothing great. If you have any ideas in mind, I may be able to help out.
Thank-you for your generous offer. I may take you up on it. My husband works with a bunch of internet gurus and he said he would try to get one of them to make something. Lets see what they can come up with!
thank you for posting my letter! a step in the right direction. i don't quite understand your stating as a reason for posting it there being no factual errors in the opinion piece... seems like one might cite that as a reason not to post the response, unless, of course, one is hoping to join the "clone the truth" campaign, where one is encouraged to point out that which "leaves out or skips over" a fact, such as the IVF aspect of ESCR.
and thank you for your candor regarding IVF - there are those on your side of this matter who are afraid to come out in opposition of IVF, in spite of the fact that that is where logic leads if one opposed ESCR.
have you had a chance to respond to my question about your hypothetical child?
oh, and i am a woman, just for the record.
Sorry about the gender!
Your letter was not appropriate for Clone the Truth for 2 reasons 1. It was in response to an opinion piece. 2. For Mr. Bartholomew, and for me, it doesn't matter where the embryos come from, whether from IVF or SCNT, it is unethical to destroy embryos for research or therapeutic reasons, so to mention specifically IVF embryos was irrelevant to his argument.
Which brings me to your question:
"quick question; if you don't really have one, imagine you have a child.. then imagine that some 10 years from now, your child is diagnosed with juvenile diabetes or is paralysed in an accident. in the interim, your side has lost and cures for diabetes and spinal cord injuries have been developed using IVF embryos or SCNT. what would you do?"
No need for a hypothetical child, I have several young children. For any of my children to be treated with SCNT, it would require creating their clone and destroying it for its stem cells, so the answer is "NO" I would never ask that an innocent life be destroyed to "cure" one of my children. That would be the case for IVF embryos as well. If a "cure" would require the destruction of an innocent life, I would never request that cure for myself, my husdand or my children.
A related question, if I may?
If the pro-embryo destruction crowd "wins", and ESC banks are created with HLA matched lines, would you use the hypothetical ESC-based therapies then? The ESC lines would be pre-derived from IVF or SCNT well in advance of your need for them, so an embryo would not need to be destroyed specifically for your child.
My understanding of Catholic teaching is that such a use would be acceptable, as you were not responsible for the sins involved in creating a life outside of marital relations (SCNT) or destroying the life (SCNT, IVF). Would that be correct?
i think i forgot to thank you for acknowledging that i made a point - so thank you.
hmmm... whereas you yourself respond to an opinion piece in CTT #7, and;
whereas in your declaration of mission you specifically target “half truths,” and things that “leave out or skip over;”
whereas you take mr. rothschild to task for an omission (you call it an error but there are no factual inaccuracies in the part you quote);
whereas for you to say that the ivf aspect of escr is irrelevant to your argument and therefore it is not necessary to mention it would be like me saying that the “embryo” aspect of SCNT is not relevant to my position, therefore it is not necessary to mention it;
and whereas actually, IVF is central to the question of ESCR, for the very reasons i stated in my letter (after all, I certainly don’t have any embryos to donate to research);
i would say that the letter i submitted is entirely appropriate for the CTT campaign - at least according to your rules and your actions. i think it deserves a place in the CTT section, instead being hidden away out here.
On the contrary, I haven't hidden it anywhere. I gave it its own entry, with a trackback under the Clone the Truth entry, just like all the other CTT entries, and put it in the CTT category and made name of the entry title of your blog! I think your letter is great and wanted to make sure everyone read it! Boy its true that no good deed goes unpunished!
You are correct that CTT #7 is for an opinion piece. It is the only one that I have done, I was unsure about doing it, but it was so blatantly inaccurate, I just had to write a letter. Mr. Rothschild was guilty of inaccuracy, not just ommission. He incorrectly called a blastocyst some thing that can grow into an embryo when a blastocyst is defined as an early embryo. "blastocyst: The mammalian embryo in the post-morula stage in which a fluid-filled cavity, enclosed primarily by trophoblast, contains an inner cell mass which becomes the embryonic disc." Source: http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/english/Bl/Blastocyst.html
And a "batch of cells" is not necessarily an embryo. "Batch of cells" is a purposefully ambiguous term that could apply to just about anything including an adult. That is why the study of embryos is called Embryology, not "Batch of Cellology"
you responded to an opinion piece therefore you cannot exclude mine on that basis.
You accused Mr. Rothschild of making an error in his description of SCNT in his article in the Lawrence Journal World (i was not referring to and did not refer to the opinion piece when making this point), but since there are no factual errors in his description (but there are in your accusation - an egg is just an egg is just an egg until it is stimulated to divide by either a sperm or some electricity, so you are wrong when you say the egg becomes an embryo upon transfer of the nucleus, unless you are going to say that it can be called an embryo because it now has diploid DNA, but i don't think you will say that, considering the implications) the most you can accuse him of is omission.
so, since you not only specify omission as a transgression to be righted in your manifesto but also take issue with it yourself in one of your letters, you cannot exclude my letter on that basis.
and correct me if i am wrong, but this letter is not actually counted among your clone the truth conquests, is it? i mean it doesn't have a number, it doesn't have the "clone the truth" slogan at the top - i fear you are being disingenuous when you say no good deed goes unpunished.
as far as i am concerned you have not put forth a single valid reason not to put this in your numbered list - which begs the question why.
i am also looking forward to seeing my letter to the founders of DoNoHarm on your list, as that not only fits your criteria, it reveals some very serious inaccuracies in a document found on a site you refer people to for accurate information on stem cell research.
Do No Harm is an advocacy group that clearly states it is anti-cloning. It is not an unbiased news outlet so once again not appropriate. But if any readers wants to read Anuket's letter to Do No Harm please visit her blog at www.anukets-crusade.blogspot.com
you do not present the DoNoHarm as a biased source of information - in fact, it is presented in the company of an esteemed university and the scientist who first iisolated human ESCs - all of which you present as good resources for furthering one's case.
you still have provided no valid reason for not including my letter in CTT.
and for the record, nowhere in your manifesto do you limit your crusade to allegedly "neutral" media outlets. in fact, you say:
"I have resolved that every time I see cloning or embryonic stem cell research misrepresented, I will write the offender and politely inform them of their errors and ask that they print a correction. "
"every time,' you say. i am handing you two prime examples of misrepresentations either by omission or by intention (or utter incompetence) and you refuse to put the one in your CTT list and the other you refuse to post at all.
you claim to be about the truth, but as i suspected, you are really about furthering your own agenda.
i have an agenda, too, obviously, but just as an illustration of the difference between you and me, if i had started a campaign like this, and you had come to pester me like i have been pestering you, it would never even have occurred to me to slide you over to some other section. and i would not be able to live with myself if i refused to post one of your submissions because it revealed one of my favored sources of information to be incompetent at best, and intentionally deceptive at worst. i am being completely honest when i say i would not only post it and acknowledge it, i would remove it from my list of recommended resources. no joke, no hype, no exaggeration - the truth.
When I started Clone the Truth, the original intention was to include only the news media, as sated in the first sentence, but you are correct that that statement is not consistent throughout the entry. I meant for it to read, ""I have resolved that every time I see cloning or embryonic stem cell research misrepresented in the news media, I will write the offender and politely inform them of their errors and ask that they print a correction."
I have made the correction. So thank-you for pointing that out.
I am not 100% sure, but I believe you are correct about Catholic Church teaching. I am no theologian but as there are no doubt numerous treatments that have been built on unethical research over the ages, as long as life is not continually destroyed, the treatment may be ethical. This is along the same lines as Bush allowing federal funding for embryonic stem cell lines where the embryos have already been destroyed.
While it may not be unethical to utilize a cure where no new lives are destroyed, I am not sure I would be comfortable with it, just as I am not comfortable vaccinating my children with vaccines that have utilized tissue from aborted fetuses.
I believe in the hypothetical case you present, I would have to consult a Catholic ethicist, as I have done in the past with ethical issues surrounding the genetic testing I perform at my job.
Thanks for your reply. One potential caveat in my reasoning is that such banks, with ESC lines obtained in an embryo destructive nature, would need to "renew" their supply by deriving new lines every so often.
Some Catholic ethicists would say that soliciting their services leads to a continuation of their sinning nature, so using their services would be cautioned against. Others may disagree.
i can respect your position when you say that you would not avail yourself of a therapy derived from SCNT or ESCR - to avail yourself of something that you are doing all you can to deny others... i sincerely hope that should the day come that in spite of all your efforts, there are existing cell lines that can be used in treatments without actually destroying any embryos right then, you will not need to consult an ethicist to make the only decision you can make and still retain your self respect.
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