Question Of The Month

Weighing the promise, problems of stem cells

August 28, 2004

Q: Do you think the federal government should lift its restrictions on stem-cell research

To answer this question you must first spend a few minutes with someone like Brian Drnec, a young man with a spinal cord injury, and then look at the issue through his eyes, and the eyes of his parents.

Try to understand what it's like to know that there is a real solution on the horizon that could give your child the ability to walk again.

One of the best hopes for a cure for Brian is the use of stem cells.

All scientific endeavors involve a certain amount of risk, yet we daily put our faith and trust in the basic decency of the scientific community. We must trust them on this issue also.

There are too many Brian Drnecs, too many Alzheimer's patients, who could benefit from this research to allow it to be slowed.

Our government, our people, our churches need to get behind this research to encourage and, yes, to monitor it.

Michael J. Drnec

Ellicott City

The writer is Brian Drnec's father.

As a member of the medical community, I know some of us have ceased to struggle with the issue of "can" vs. "ought." Our ability has become our mandate, and the implications frighten me. As a student of ethics, I can also say that when humans lose all basis for moral decision-making, it is the weak who suffer.

Between 1932 and 1972, the Tuskegee Institute victimized black men by allowing syphilis to spread unchecked through their bodies.

In 1978, the movie Coma sent shivers of terror and revulsion through our collective consciousness as it portrayed unethical physicians who preyed on comatose patients by using their bodies for spare parts.

Sound familiar?

Understanding syphilis is good; killing black men is evil. Transplanting organs is good; killing patients is evil.

Stem-cell research is good; killing humans in its service is - well, you fill in the blank.

Corporate greed and intellectual arrogance are a potent mix, and informed consent is only the first casualty.

We must restrict embryonic stem-cell research and proceed with stem-cell research from fully informed adults.

Dr. Amy Fogelstrom Chai

Ellicott City

My family and I are in favor of the federal government's lifting its restrictions on stem-cell research.

We have had personal experiences with sicknesses and injuries that, we firmly believe and our doctors verify, could have been eased by research on new techniques such as stem-cells.

With the worldwide ongoing research on stem cells, our federal government is only a lone weak voice in the wilderness. And that voice is being driven by some kind of illogic religious belief on the part of our president and his followers.

Donald Friedmann

Owings Mills

I believe the government should lift its restrictions on stem-cell research because stem cells are not living, breathing, thinking human beings.

Tens of thousands of human beings are suffering from a variety of illnesses. They are often sentenced to death from these diseases. It is well known in the scientific community that stem cells have vast potential for curing many of these people's illnesses.

People are suffering, and their loved ones are suffering along with them.

There is no ideology that can justify continuing to impose death sentences on these people.

Beatrice Sapperstein

Reisterstown

The federal government should not lift its restriction on embryonic stem-cell research.

Embryonic stem cells are obtained by taking apart human embryos, whereas adult stem cells are found in a variety of tissues in living people of all ages. Routinely used to treat disease since the 1980s, adult stem cells are now being converted into an astonishing variety of tissue.

Adult stem cells are immature cells removed from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, placenta, etc., which are then cultured and grown into desired tissue.

Embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, once implanted, tend to keep growing and can become cancerous. They also carry a high rejection rate by patients' immune systems.

Is it any wonder private investors are pouring money into the superior adult-stem-cell research?

Berry Papson

Phoenix

Yes, the federal government should lift its restrictions on stem-cell research.

We send living, breathing, feeling human beings into war, possibly to be killed, tortured or maimed. But we cannot use stem cells to save and repair life?

I don't understand.

Ann Edgar

Kingsville

I find it very troubling that our government would stand in the way of stem-cell research.

Here we have an opportunity to actually reduce health care costs through the benefits of stem-cell research, but the braintrust in Washington cannot get out of its own way and further this research by providing necessary funding.

Tom Goodman

Clarksville

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