Thursday, June 13. 2013
After years of back and forth, the question of whether naturally occurring human genes are patentable has been decided by the Supreme Court. Most Americans are not aware that about a quarter of their genes have been patented by companies and research institutions over the last few decades by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The Supreme Court has made the right decision and unanimously decided that your genes are not patentable.
Continue reading at LifeNews>>
Monday, June 10. 2013
It is undeniable that we humans have an innate desire to know from whom we came. Many people who are adopted or have only one parent will tell you that they feel they are missing a piece of a puzzle. Genealogy websites like Ancestry.com exist because of our fascination with our genetic ancestors. Every time I see an ad for Ancestry.com, a place where you "Find your ancestors’ stories" and "Discover yours," I feel that tug to find out more about my grandparents and great-grandparents. My daughter's junior year project for high school was a presentation and paper on the immigration of both sides of her family to America.
Now imagine if you were purposely denied one half of your story by a powerful industry that runs on anonymity. And what if when you pointed out the intentional injustice, you were told that you should shut-up and simply be grateful for your life.
This is the experience for many a child conceived from anonymous donor gametes. The following is a excerpt from testimony that Alana S. Newman, founder of AnonymousUs.org, gave to the California Assembly Committee on Health regarding AB460, a bill in the California legislature that would require insurers to offer coverage for infertility treatments even to same-sex couples where the relationships are, by nature, not fertile. Such treatments often require donor gametes. Alana is bravely standing up for the rights of those intentionally denied what she believes is a fundamental right: the right to a relationship with one's biological parents. She writes:
The facts of my conception are that my father was paid to abandon me. There is no dignity in that. I suffered from debilitating identity issues, mistrust of the opposite sex, hatred and condemnation of the opposite sex, feelings of objectification – like I only exist as a play – toy for others, and feeling like a science experiment.Very few people like to hear that their choices have devastating consequences for others. If there is a place where voices like Alana's need to be heard, it is the fertility machine. Both infertile couples and the fertility industry must hear what she is saying. The desire for a child does not trump the right of a child to know his or her biological parents.
Wait a minute. I have heard that before. Oh yes, from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
2376 Techniques that entail the dissociation of husband and wife, by the intrusion of a person other than the couple (donation of sperm or ovum, surrogate uterus), are gravely immoral. These techniques (heterologous artificial insemination and fertilization) infringe the child's right to be born of a father and mother known to him and bound to each other by marriage.
Thursday, June 6. 2013
This week the Supreme Court decided that it is not a violation of the 4th Amendment for law enforcement to take a DNA sample from people who are arrested. The Court said that a cheek swab was no different than mug shots or fingerprinting; its purpose is to identify the person in custody. From the New York Times:
The police may take DNA samples from people arrested in connection with serious crimes, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a 5-to-4 decision.The court was deeply divided with four of the justices realizing that these DNA samples were for more than just identification. They were a fishing expedition for suspects in cold cases. Scalia wrote the dissent:
Justice Antonin Scalia summarized his dissent from the bench, a rare move signaling deep disagreement. He accused the majority of an unsuccessful sleight of hand, one that “taxes the credulity of the credulous.” The point of DNA testing as it is actually practiced, he said, is to solve cold cases, not to identify the suspect in custody.You may ask why this was even an issue since people who get arrested must be bad people right? Not necessarily. Do not equate being arrested with being convicted of a crime. For those convicted, taking a DNA sample is more than appropriate and an important tool for solving unsolved crimes. But just being arrested is wholly another thing. Many people are arrested for crimes they did not commit.
This was a bad decision for many reasons. First, Scalia is right. A DNA sample goes way beyond simple identification. That sample has information in it that the government does not have any business knowing about unless you are actually convicted of a crime. Try getting paternity, health or "criminal gene" information from a mug shot or fingerprinting.
Second, this overloads an already overloaded system. As this Washington Post piece points out:
A Department of Justice study estimated that around 900,000 requests for biological screening, mostly DNA testing, were backlogged nationally at the end of 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. Meanwhile, large numbers of kits from routine arrests may be making the problem worse, argued Brandon Garrett, a professor at University of Virginia School of Law.Garrett is right. Forensic DNA testing looks at short sequences that are repeated over and over. These repeated regions are called short tandem repeats or STRs. The places where these STRs occur are called loci. There are many variations in the lengths of STRs (I may have 5 repeats at a particular loci and you may have 8 ) and by looking at many different loci scientists create a kind of profile or human bar code that is unique to each individual. This technique is also used to determine parentage because you inherit half of your unique barcode from your mother and half from your father.
The problem comes from the fact that most DNA from a crime scene is not perfect. It can be degraded or mixed with DNA from other individuals. Sometimes labs can only match 9 loci to the DNA found at a crime scene.
Scientists are starting to question this assumption that 10-13 loci are enough to rule out the possibility of a random match to DNA other than the suspect. In other words, if 10-13 loci are not enough to make a definitive barcode, then a 10-13 loci DNA profile can actually match more than one individual. According New Scientist, a recent look into the possibility of random matches produced some serious results:
The first clue that something might be amiss came in 2005, when limited data was released from the Arizona state database, a small part of CODIS. An analyst who compared every profile with every other profile in the database found that, of 65,493 profiles, 122 pairs of profiles matched at nine out of 13 loci and 20 pairs matched at 10 loci, while one pair matched at 11 loci and one more pair matched at 12 loci. "It surprised a lot of people," says signatory Bill Thompson of UCI. "It had been common for experts to testify that a nine-locus match is tantamount to a unique identification."So in a sample of 65,000 profiles, 122 profiles matched at 9 loci, 20 profiles matched at 10 loci, and 1 profile matched at both 11 and 12 loci. According to Bill Thompson, experts have testified that 9 loci is enough for a unique profile. This comparison calls into question the assumption that 9-13 loci are enough to definitively match a suspect's DNA to that found at a crime scene.
And the more people law enforcement adds to this database, the more likely a false positive will result. Taking the DNA of arrestees does indeed "dilute the databases and weakens their power."
This ruling also makes the assumption that if you are innocent when arrested you have nothing to worry about. It assumes that forensic labs never make mistakes or never perpetrate fraud. Unfortunately that is not the case. Just last year a scientist in the Department of Public Health Lab in Massachusetts admitted to falsifying data in thousands of cases. The Scientist reported:
The results from roughly 34,000 criminal drug cases were put into question earlier this year, when forensic chemist Annie Dookhan at the shuttered Department of Public Health Lab in Massachusetts was discovered to have falsified records on samples she was assigned to process. Instead, she forged signatures and did not perform tests she recorded as complete, according to investigations. Suspicions may have first arisen due to her impressive output—she claimed to have processed 9,000 samples in a year, whereas colleagues only averaged around 3,000. As a result of her actions, a number of defendants may have been wrongly imprisoned, while others who may have been rightly accused were freed.Scientists are people too. We make mistakes and sometimes we commit fraud to further our careers. The power of DNA testing for forensics should be limited. DNA databases should consist of samples from those convicted of crimes not clogged with samples from anyone who has ever been arrested. The chances for misuse are just too great. Besides the 4th Amendment is supposed to protect us from "unreasonable searches and seizures." I think taking DNA from those not yet convicted of a crime qualifies.
Monday, June 3. 2013
I think writing is hard. I was a chemistry major not an English major. And the niche I made for myself (or maybe a ditch I dug for myself) in the blogging world commenting on the latest in biotechnology from a Catholic perspective is not an easy one. My ditch is frequently flooded with sewage. I made my bed. There are days I hate lying in it. (It maybe that I am particularly frazzled right now because of the end-of-the-school year frenzy that happens every June. All you parents know exactly what I am talking about. It is a yearly occurrence, but somehow I am always caught unprepared.)
There are things that readers can do to make writing more of a pleasant experience for me. I am sure other writers feel the same. Here are four favors that readers can do that would make blogging a little less frustrating.
1. Please don't just read the headlines.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Friday, May 31. 2013
Congressman Andy Harris (R-MD) has reintroduced a true ban on human cloning to the U.S. Congress. H.R. 2164, Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2012, would ban human cloning all over the U.S. This is actually a remarkable bill. Why? Because most other “bans on human cloning” do nothing of the sort.
I have always told my readers to beware of bans on human cloning. A lot of legislation that claims to ban human cloning does not actually ban human cloning. These laws just redefine cloning so that the cloning of human embryos for research can continue.
Somatic cell nuclear transfer or SCNT is the scientific name for cloning. With SCNT, scientists create cloned embryos using a cell like a skin cell and an egg. SCNT was the process used to create Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned using an adult mammary cell.
SCNT is cloning, but if you read the fine print of many a law that says it “bans human cloning” often SCNT in humans is NOT banned. Instead these phony bans allow researchers to continue using SCNT to clone as many embryos as they want. The phony “ban on human cloning” then just prohibits the transfer of those cloned embryos to a woman. The cloning of human embryos is still allowed; it is the attempt at pregnancy that is banned. These phony cloning bans are especially insidious because they require the destruction of the human embryos created with SCNT.
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Wednesday, May 29. 2013
The scientific community seems to me to be obsessed with cloning. Even with induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology making cloning embryos for stem cell harvesting look like taking the long way around, they still are pursuing somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) the scientific name for cloning.
The announcement that a team in Oregon had successfully created embryos with SCNT (with eggs "donated" from young cash-stripped co-eds) and had extracted stem cells from these embryos (destroying them in the process) was news all over the world.
The findings were published in the journal Cell with unprecedented speed: accepted in 3 days, published in 12. As if it was the breakthrough everyone had been waiting for and Cell was going to speed up the normal review process to let the world know about it. Even though patient-specific pluripotent stem cells had already been created a hundred times over with iPSC technology, cloning had now arrived and the data just couldn't wait. How very nonobjective.
Now it seems some minor errors have been found, highlighting the crazy rush to publish. From Nature:
How fast is too fast for review of a scientific article? And who has the responsibility to ensure accuracy? Errors found in a widely acclaimed cloning study have rekindled those questions — and sent the lead author and the journal that published it scrambling to assure the world that the problems did not compromise the findings.No one is claiming that the cloning was fraudulent as it was in the case of Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk of South Korea, but this certainly does feel like deja-vu.
Cloning seems to bring the frenzy. I really don't think if it was just about stem cells that would be the case. I think the fact that these scientists created cloned embryos that grew long enough to extract stem cells (and may have continued to develop if they had not been destroyed) is the real news. That is what is truly garnering all the attention and is the reason why Cell rushed the paper.
It is time to realize that cloning is not about stem cells. It has always been an incremental push to reproductive cloning. A fact that has not gone noticed before. "Experts" in this Wired News article have called it "inevitable" as did George W. Bush who understood the implications of cloning embryos for research. In 2002, he said:
"Anything other than a total ban on human cloning would be virtually impossible to enforce. Cloned human embryos created for research would be widely available in laboratories and embryo farms. Once cloned embryos were available, implantation would take place. Even the tightest regulations and strict policing would not prevent or detect the birth of cloned babies."I think that is the plan, Mr. President. I think that is the plan.
Wednesday, May 22. 2013
In manufacturing, quality control (QC) is very important. A manufacturer always wants to put out the best product and eliminate defective merchandise.
The same is true of IVF. With as many as 30 embryos created for every live birth, doctors are always on the look out for ways to separate the robust embryos from the "defective" ones to improve their success rates. Previously this was achieved by preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD.) In PGD, a single cell is removed from the days old embryo and tested for genetic anomalies. The ones that pass the test get a chance at being transferred to their mother's womb. The others...well they are defective so no need to mention what happens to them, right?
PGD is expensive and invasive to the embryo, so an IVF clinic in Britain has developed a new way to QC embryos: time-lapsed photography. Those embryos that reach a certain stage slower than their counterparts are deemed "high risk."
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report>>
Tuesday, May 21. 2013
I don't think I could have found anything less "scientific" from a website called "ScienceAlert." A group in Australia has taken up the challenge of reforming the laws regarding "left-over" IVF embryos there. Currently, many embryos are destroyed every year because of mandatory storage limits.
This group began the "Enhancing Reproductive Opportunity Research Project" to address the concerns of women over the destruction of their embryos mandated by law.
It sounds like a good idea. From ScienceAlert:
We found that current IVF rules on issues such as storage limits and destruction practices are intrusive and disrespectful. Mandatory time limits in some states compel destruction of stored embryos after ten years, for instance, while rules in other states prevent a surviving partner from deciding on the use or donation of embryos.So what did this group decide after surveying 400 couples in over 20 clinics across Australia? This:
We don’t believe that embryos should be granted a moral or legal significance in and of themselves as distinct entities. Rather, their value is relational – embryos matter because of what they mean to those for whom they were generated. This meaning is intensely personal, and infinitely variable.What? Embryos only matter because of how their parents feel about them? Their moral status is "infinitely variable?" What drivel!
I thought to myself who came up with this most nonobjective analysis of the moral and legal status of the human embryo? It looks to be a group of highly-educated women. I should have been tipped off when ScienceAlert reported that this was a "feminist-oriented approach." I wonder how this group would take to someone asserting that their worth was only defined by the value that men gave them.
Frankly, I feel insulted by this conclusion. Could a group of women with a feminist approach not come up with something with more objectivity and clarity? Is this not simply playing into the stereotype of women making decisions on feelings instead of reason? I know plenty of smart women who could come up with something more substantial and less capricious.
I suppose this is a symptom of the illness of our times. We live in a world where the unborn have no worth unless their parents "feel" that they do. It is true that in our arguably uncivilized society, the unborn's value is "relational."
We need to be reminded that we are not talking about human beings in the abstract, but real human organisms that just happen to be our own offspring. How disconnected have we become that we can call the value of our own children "infinitely variable?"
Friday, May 17. 2013
This is so incredibly sad for so many reasons. There is really nothing else to say. (I have already expressed my concerns about uterine transplants here.) From the UK's Daily Mail:
A woman who was the first to have a successful womb transplant from a dead donor has had her pregnancy terminated after the embryo showed no heartbeat, doctors in Turkey have said.
I mourn the loss of this little one. Eternal rest grant unto him or her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him or her. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Wednesday, May 15. 2013
Once induced pluripotent stem cells hit the scene, human cloning slowly faded away. Why clone embryos with human eggs (exploiting women in the process) to get "patient-specific" embryonic stem cells when you can just take an adult cell and reprogram it back to an embryonic-like state? No eggs, no cloning, no creating and destroying embryos.
But I knew cloning was just hiding in the shadows waiting to resurface. Scientists are still trying to achieve this "holy grail" of human biology: the creation of human clones. Ones that will generate embryonic stem cells.
A team of scientists, including a fertility specialist (meaning IVF doc) from Japan, has done it. Not in some underground lab in China, but in the good old USA. Oregon to be exact. Nature has the story:
A paper published this week by Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a reproductive biology specialist at the Oregon Health and Science University in Beaverton, and his colleagues is sure to rekindle that debate. Mitalipov and his team have finally created patient-specific ESCs through cloning, and they are keen to prove that the technology is worth pursuing....Let us be clear where Nature is not. These researchers did not create "cells" they created embryos which where then destroyed for embryonic stem cells.
Nature also says these cells are "perfectly matched" to the person who donated the adult cell that provided the nucleus for the somatic cell nuclear transfer or SCNT. (For a refresher on SCNT click here.) Embryonic stem cells from a cloned embryos cannot be "perfectly matched" because there is DNA leftover from the woman who donated the egg. (The only way the ESCs created would be "perfectly matched" is if a young woman provided the eggs to create her own clone.)
Speaking of young women, did you noticed where the supply of eggs needed for these experiments came from? Young, cash-strapped, college students enticed by the $3,000-7,000 compensation. I wonder how many of these young women experienced complications from their "donation." I wonder of any will lose their own fertility as some egg donors have.
I wonder also why, with iPSC technology, anyone is even pursuing SCNT anymore. I am not alone:
Still, Daley and most other stem-cell researchers have shifted to another method for creating genetically matched, patient-specific cell lines: reprogramming adult cells to an embryonic state to produce induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. First reported in 2006, the technique does not involve eggs, cloning or destruction of embryos. “Honestly, the most surprising thing [about this paper] is that somebody is still doing human [SCNT] in the era of iPS cells,” says Miodrag Stojkovic, who studies iPS cells for regenerative medicine and runs a fertility clinic in Leskovac, Serbia.Actually, I don't wonder. I have always thought that stem cells were a red herring. I see the end game to be reproductive cloning, or cloning-to-produce children.
Nature reports that Tachibana will publish why reproductive cloning is not possible. I would love to see that. Until today it seemed cloning for research was also "impossible." Unless the United States gets some federal legislation that bans SCNT in humans, we might just find out if reproductive cloning is in fact impossible or not.
Tuesday, May 14. 2013
A new bill introduced into the California legislature would lift the ban on paying women for their eggs
AB 926, the Reproductive Health and Research Bill, says that to encourage reproductive health and research in the state, women need to be compensated for “donating” their eggs, a hot commodity in the embryonic stem cell research and infertility arenas....
So why would California want more women to go through such a process just for research purposes? AB 926 gives a list of research that would benefit from having more human eggs, which includes reducing the high volume of multiple pregnancies in IVF. But there is some very disturbing verbiage in AB 926 including the assertion that research will benefit from the intentional creation of excess embryos.
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Wednesday, May 8. 2013
Aussie boy: "Hey Ma, where are we going on vacation this year?"
Aussie mom: "We are doing something very special. We are going to circumvent the laws of our country and we are going to travel all the way to Thailand, stay in a fancy hotel for a week, and buy you a little sister!"
Aussie boy: "Good onya, Ma!"
If you are an Aussie couple dying to have a girl or boy, forget about the ban on sex-selective IVF and let Global Health Travel of Australia set it all up for you! Airfare, luxury accommodations and the child of your choice.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Monday, May 6. 2013
A very interesting discussion with Chelsea on the Church and biotechnology and how the Church is far more "forward" than the rest of society where we conclude that "It is not time for the Church to catch up to us. It is time for us to catch up with the Church."
Friday, May 3. 2013
Themes of how we will relate to each other when we live in Ray Kurzweil's singularity and are no longer oragnic, just disembodied consciousnesses uploaded to the digital world, have made it to Broadway. Well off, off Broadway at least. Broadway World reports on "Love Machine":
What do a small town girl flirting with a satellite, a robot giving a lecture about transhumanism, and a man uploading his consciousness into the digital ether all have in common? Love. Love Machine is created to reflect the current trend of the way humans have come to rely on technology. Below, BroadwayWorld has a first look at the piece, debuting at Incubator Arts Project on May 10!That should be really interesting. I wonder how to theatrically portray a disembodied consciousness and whether the audience will have any idea of what they are viewing.
No matter. Transhumanist ideas are here to stay. Next it will be a blockbuster musical-comedy about wayward artificial limbs and dreams of becoming re-embodied. I can see the headline: "Transhumans Take Broadway By Storm!"
Have you talked with your kids about enhancements yet?
Wednesday, May 1. 2013
An adorable two year-old has a new lease on life thanks to pioneering doctors, a charitable Catholic hospital and her own stem cells. Little Hannah Warren was born without a trachea, the passageway that leads to the lungs. Although a tube was inserted from her esophagus to her lungs to help her breath, doctors told her parents that she would likely die.
Hannah is now recovering from a trachea transplant. The trachea was made from a plastic scaffold and stem cells taken from her bone marrow.
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Tuesday, April 30. 2013
From the theoretical horrors of "In vitro eugenics," to the real horrors of Kermit Gosnell's abortuary and the bombings at the Boston Marathon, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the evil in the world. To fight this despair, I have been bringing to mind all of the good things that are in my life. This morning I saw this on Facebook from the Generation Life page:
Being wary of quote attributions on Facebook, I looked into these words of the Holy Father and found that the phrase (from Romans 12:21) was conveyed through a telegram from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, on behalf of Pope Francis, to Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, to give encouragement to the people of Boston.
Ruminating on this wisdom, I wondered how to combat great evil. Maybe with the crushing weight of all of the good. I suddenly felt compelled to write down that mental list I had been compiling of the all the good around me. The big stuff is easy: my marriage, my children, my faith, my extensive support group of homeschooling Catholic moms, the perspicacious commentary of the Archbold brothers.
But, I wanted to go a bit further and look for the little good things, ones that are everyday gifts that I often take for granted. Here is a list, in no particular order and certainly not exhaustive, of the little, everyday, good things in life that I am so very thankful for:
1. warm hug from a toddler in fuzzy footy pajamas
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Monday, April 29. 2013
A study done by Swedish researchers has shown that couples that choose to adopt after failed IVF reported being happier than even couples who conceived naturally. From the Telegraph:
But a new study has found that, for those who go on to adopt, the earlier heartbreak can ultimately make for a happier family.Of course this finding goes against the profit-seeking strategy of the IVF clinics that will keep taking a desperate couple's money for multiple failed attempts to get pregnant. I doubt the clinics will tell couples that they could really happy if they would adopt. But the researchers think this knowledge should be conveyed at a much earlier stage. Co-author Professor Marie Berg:
"The results show that it can be important to consider adoption as soon as couples seek medical help for infertility, especially now that we know that adoption enhances quality of life.And some people are taking notice:
The researchers said it suggested that childless couples should be urged to consider adoption at a much earlier stage. It is a finding which boost the education secretary Michael Gove's drive to increase adoption rates in the UK.There is one giant elephant in the room though. How can adoption rates increase if we keep aborting millions of children every year? We don't often think of abortion as a driving force for couples to seek IVF, but with "unwanted" babies being aborted instead of given a chance at life with a loving couple, the heartbreak of being childless drive many to straight to the IVF clinic.
This study maybe an important finding for both women with "unwanted" pregnancies and infertile couples a like. Adoption does bring happiness.
Tuesday, April 23. 2013
Sometimes in science the best discoveries are those that are unexpected. Researchers in California were trying to get bone marrow stem cells to grow by introducing an antibodies to the cells. Instead the cells began to form neural cells. U.S. News & World Report has the story:
Scientists have discovered an antibody that can turn stem cells from a patient's bone marrow directly into brain cells, a potential breakthrough in the treatment of neurological diseases and injuries.Neural cells straight from your own bone marrow. Remarkable.
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Monday, April 22. 2013
It is as inevitable as the passing of time. Once there is a new pope, the world begins to wonder when the Catholic Church is going to leave its "medieval thinking" behind and join the "modern" age. It is the 21st century after all, and the Church needs to stop being so "backward."
I am a cradle Catholic, and, when I was young, I subconsciously believed that the Church was "behind the times" and "out of touch."
As I began my career and worked in cutting-edge biotech laboratories, there was always a nagging question: How can my Church, so rooted in the past, have something relevant to say about modern technologies like stem-cell research, cloning and genetic engineering that are coming in the future?
Then I began researching these technologies and discovered something that changed the way I viewed my Church and my faith. Elbow deep in the latest biotechnology news, I discovered that the Church was far from backward, out of touch and irrelevant.
It is the most forward-thinking institution I have ever encountered — and more relevant today than ever.
Continue reading at National Catholic Register >>
Wednesday, April 17. 2013
Part of being a blogger is learning that people, even ones on your side, will misread, misunderstand, and misrepresent what you are saying. Being human, many of us only read headlines, or skim through a piece missing the major points, or infer things that simply are not implied. Knowing this, I try not to let reactions to my posts get under my skin.
For some reason the reactions to yesterday's news about the pregnancy of the woman who underwent a uterus transplant really affected me. To recap, a woman born without a uterus was transplanted with a uterus from a deceased woman. She then underwent IVF and is now confirmed to be pregnant.
Many of the comments I have read state that the only thing wrong with this is the IVF. If she had gotten pregnant naturally this would be fine. I also read a lot of comments that compare a uterus transplant to a kidney or heart transplant. The thought is that if those are morally acceptable then this should be to.
I guess I am disheartened that many of the comments echo the sentiments of the rest of society: the emotional appeals to what the parents want with little thought to how a procedure affects the health and well-being of the child.
Let us think about this critically instead of emotionally.
A uterus transplant is not a necessary procedure. This woman was not going to die if she did not receive a womb. This is nothing like a kidney or heart transplant. The point was so that she could be pregnant evidenced by the fact that the uterus will be removed after the child is delivered.
Since the uterus came from a deceased woman, presumably no other lives were put at risk to retrieve the organ. This is not the case with a live uterus donor which is also being attempted. To put the health and safety of the otherwise healthy woman donating the uterus at risk to provide a organ that is not essential for life is not ethical.
Beyond the actual transplant, let us consider the child that is now being gestated in this transplanted uterus. This child was purposefully placed in a womb that is a potentially dangerous place. The mother has to take immunosuppressant drugs so she will not reject the uterus. As experts said there is significant risk of birth defects and pre-term labor here. The child was created in a lab and intentionally put at risk in an experimental womb just so that this woman could experience pregnancy.
Remember there is a PERSON in that womb whose life hangs in the balance. He or she could suffer life-long consequences. Is this treating him or her with the utmost respect deserving of every person?
Sure it would be nice if every woman with a deformed or malfunction uterus could get a replacement, but how many children do we need to put at risk to perfect this procedure? In other high-risk medical procedures like heart or kidney transplants, the possible reward outweighs the risk because the patient is already in a life-threatening situation. But with a uterus transplant there is no life-threatening illness to treat. Is it ethical to intentionally put the life of a child at risk for a non-life threatening problem?
There are a lot of medical advancements that we could have if we treated research subjects unethically. Let us not forget that the child is also a subject in this experiment. Are we treating him or her ethically or as a regrettable, but acceptable, causality if this fails?
I fear that the attitude toward this child is the same as all the children of artificial reproductive technologies (ART) that came before. The priority is what the parents want. The health and safety of the child is secondary. A recent review of ART in the Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine Online, written by scientists in the field, reiterates that idea that in the fertility industry, many have a "let's see if it works and ask questions about safety later" attitude. Is that what is happening here?
I think if we continue on with this perspective where the health and safety of the next generation is not the first priority, things like "in vitro eugenics" are sure to follow. Dr. Sparrow is right that concerns about safety are unlikely to stop the creation of generations of embryos in the lab because, so far, concerns about the children hasn't stopped any ART. It is up to us to be the voice of the voiceless.
I realize that the Catholic Church has not officially come out against uterus transplants, but that does not mean we cannot think critically about it and come to the conclusion that this is unethical. I often ask myself these questions when evaluating advances in biotechnology. I think it applies here:
Does this technology disrespect or unnecessarily endanger human life at any point from the very beginning to natural death? Does it reduce human life to a biological commodity? Does it require that a human organism be used or destroyed?
I have come to the conclusion that the uterus transplant does intentionally endanger the life of an innocent child simply so a woman can be pregnant. I know others disagree. I just want to make sure that the discussions surrounding this procedure are grounded in the MOST important consideration, the health and well-being of the child, and not in the emotional appeal to what adults desire.
Tuesday, April 16. 2013
Doctors have announced that the woman that received a womb transplant is now pregnant. From RedOrbit:
The Turkish woman who, two years ago, became the first person in the world to have a successful womb transplant from a deceased donor is pregnant, various media outlets are reporting.Now it is time to pray for that child. Pray that he or she is born healthy with no complications. We need to pray because even the doctors admit that things may go wrong:
“Experts however warn the pregnancy carries several health risks to the patient as well as to the baby, including birth defects due to the use of immunosuppressive drugs as well as preterm delivery.”I think herein lies the problem. This child is the experiment, not part of an experiment, but is the actual experiment. Why else would you transplant a uterus to a woman who was born without one? It is not so she can menstruate for a few years. It is so she can gestate a baby. A baby that had his or her start in a laboratory not in a loving embrace.
The idea of a child as the experiment is not new. We have been experimenting with the next generation without their consent for a long time. We are still experimenting on them. The fact is we have no idea what the long-term physical and emotional effects of IVF, PGD, ICSI or other artificial reproductive technologies (ART) even are and yet we continue on. This uterus transplant is no different.
The avant-garde attitude toward the creation of children will continue on with the health and well-being of the children produced as an after-thought. Case in point, Dr. Robert Sparrow's paper "In vitro eugenics" in the Journal of Medical Ethics where he explores possibility of creating embryos in the lab, then using the stem cells from those embryos to create egg and sperm cells, and then using those gametes to create more embryos. Essentially, this would take human reproduction into the laboratory not just for one generation, but for generation after generation. These embryos would be "orphaned at conception." Unfortunately, this technology of producing egg and sperm from stem cells is no longer science fiction. Scientists have already accomplished this in mice and are discussing and developing strategies to doing the same in humans.
Sparrow points out that safety concerns for the children produced with "in vitro eugenics" will likely not prevent the practice because frankly we have had little concern for safety in any previous ART technique. Sparrow writes:
However, there are a number of reasons to believe that concerns about safety and risk are unlikely to prove an insurmountable barrier to the ethical creation of designer babies by in vitro eugenics. To begin with, as I noted above, these concerns arise regarding every new reproductive technology involving the manipulation of embryos. Until a generation of children produced by IVF (or intracytoplasmic sperm injection or cytoplasmic transfer) have lived out their natural lifespan, we will not know whether IVF (or any of these other technologies) is safe—and we certainly did not know this at the time at which those technologies were first trialled. Thus, in vitro eugenics would not raise any issues we have not confronted before.I think we can add uterus transplant from a deceased donor to his list of techniques where we did not know the whether the technique was "safe" before we tried it.
Let me provide an alternative way to view children. A view where children are to be treated with the utmost respect, not just from birth, but from conception. A view of children as the beautiful fruit of the love between a husband and wife not as the product of technological intervention. Let me quote Donum Vitae:
The child is not an object to which one has a right, nor can he be considered as an object of ownership: rather, a child is a gift, “the supreme gift” and the most gratuitous gift of marriage, and is a living testimony of the mutual giving of his parents.And then Charter for Health Care Workers:
"The desire for a child, sincere and intense though it be, by the spouses, does not legitimize recourse to techniques which are contrary to the truth of human procreation and to the dignity of the new human being. The desire for a child gives no right to have a child. The latter is a person, with the dignity of a 'subject.' As such, it cannot be desired as an 'object.' The fact is that the child is a subject of rights: the child has the right to be conceived only with full respect for its personhood."I think it time we listen to the wisdom of the Catholic Church on procreation. Otherwise "in vitro eugenics" may only be the first in the long line of unethical techniques that treat children as objects and not as the gifts that they truly are.
Friday, April 12. 2013
This week the Vatican is hosting another adult stem cell conference bringing together some of the top scientists in the field. The conference, the second held by the Vatican, is called "Regenerative Medicine – A Fundamental Shift in Science & Culture." It is a collaboration between the Pontifical Council for Culture, NeoStem, an adult stem cell company, STOQ International, a non-profit that encourages dialogue between Church and culture, and The Stem for Life Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to spreading the good news about adult stem cells.
According to Dr. Robin Smith, CEO of NeoStem and President of the Stem For Life Foundation, the conference will focus on the all of the misconceptions surrounding stem cell science. From the conference press release:
"We created this event so that we could educate the world on the ability of adult stem cell therapies to address countless diseases and medical conditions, reducing suffering on a truly global scale," said Dr. Robin Smith, President of The Stem for Life Foundation and CEO of NeoStem. "To tell this story of hope and healing, and to address the many misconceptions surrounding stem cell therapies, we have gathered leaders and pioneers of the regenerative medicine industry, as well as patients who have received adult stem cell therapies, journalists, ethicists, educators, policy experts and religious officials. The human body holds the secrets to healing and this landmark event will sound a clarion call."
Continue reading at Life News >>
Wednesday, April 10. 2013
I read somewhere that while both George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World contained dystopian futures, Huxley's world, where humans are made in "hatcheries" and the people were kept compliant, not by the threat of Big Brother, but by the numbing of their senses with the pleasure-inducing drug "soma," was a more plausible scenario.
After reading "In vitro eugenics" by Dr. Robert Sparrow in the Journal of Medical Ethics, I have to agree. Dr. Sparrow explores the possibility of creating embryos in the lab, then using the stem cells from those embryos to create egg and sperm cells, and then using those gametes to create more embryos. Essentially, this would take human reproduction into the laboratory not just for one generation, but for generation after generation. These embryos would be "orphaned at conception." They "would have no genetic parents: there would be no living individual—or indeed individual that had ever lived—who could be described as the genetic progenitor of such embryos." Sparrow calls this "in vitro eugenics."
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Tuesday, April 9. 2013
There is a war on women being waged all over the world. It is not the fictional war on women that the Democrats keep prattling on about. It is a real war that takes the lives of millions of females every year. This real war is fueled by abortion.
Sex-selective abortion, along with the less prevalent infanticide, kills more girls in China and India every year than are born in the United States. The number of girls "missing" in Asia is equivalent to the entire female population of the United States, the majority due to sex-selective abortion.
This real war on women has been going on for decades and is now beginning to get the attention it deserves. The National Catholic Register reports on Reggie Littlejohn, a lawyer who founded Women’s Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF). Littlejohn addressed the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women bringing to light the horrible consequences of the mass gendercide. From the Register:
“There are 37 million more men than women living in China today,” Littlejohn told the U.N. gathering in New York. “This gender imbalance drives human trafficking and sexual slavery. And China has the highest female suicide rate of any country in the world. This is the true war against women.”And recent study of Census data indicates that sex-selection is happening here in the United States. Immigrants who come to America with gender bias and want to abort their girls have the benefit of having the law on their side. While sex-selection is illegal in many countries including India and China, only a handful of states in the U.S. address the issue. Kansas is the latest to outlaw abortions on the basis of sex.
The United States needs federal law prohibiting sex-selective abortions. Last year, Congress had the opportunity to do just that by passing the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), but failed to do so because the political ramifications of putting limits on the progressive's sacred cow, abortion. The Register reports:
Littlejohn scoffed at the federal political footballing of the issue. “Are they really for women’s rights?” she asked. “Or do they have a different agenda?”Indeed. "Pro-choice feminists" seems more concerned with the mythical "reproductive right" than the lives of actual women. They deal with sex-selection in the U.S. by pretending it doesn't exist and calling it "a problem rampant only in its rampant nonexistence."
The damage continues in Asia. The East cannot get back the millions of women (and counting) sacrificed in abortion. But we can prevent what Steven Mosher from the Population Research Institute calls the “ugliest form of misogyny” here in the United States. It is past time for America to say loud and clear that we will not permit the killing of innocents simply because they lack a Y chromosome.
Thursday, April 4. 2013
On the New York Times parenting blogs, a mother of a girl with Down Syndrome argues against North Dakota's new law that outlaws abortion in cases of genetic abnormality. Alison Piepmeier says that “Outlawing Abortion Won’t Help Children with Down Syndrome.” The premise is that parents abort babies with Down Syndrome because their child will face untold challenges. Piepmeier writes about her conversations with women who aborted their children:
Repeatedly women told me that they ended the pregnancy not because they wanted a “perfect child” (as one woman said, “I don’t know what ‘perfect child’ even means”) but because they recognized that the world is a difficult place for people with intellectual disabilities.This thinking is so prevalent in our society. And it is so backward. Instead of improving the lives of those with intellectual disabilities, we choose to kill them instead. And not just some of the time, 90% of the time.
Putting aside the data that shows that 99% of adults with Down Syndrome report being happy, I ask, "How can we improve the lives of those with Down Syndrome enough to not kill them if we keep killing them?" How will research into improving the cognitive effects of Down Syndrome proceed if there are no patients left to treat?
This is the same backwards approach to medicine that fuels the assisted suicide movement. Instead of controlling the pain of terminal illness, the plan is to kill the patient. I guarantee that the more killing becomes the treatment plan, the less research into end-of-life pain control will advance.
When death is the treatment of choice, all other options fall by the wayside and wither.
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
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