Marlowe's Shade

Monday, September 26, 2005

Fetal Harvest

Bioethicist Wesley J Smith posted this stunning article in his blog Secondhand Smoke this weekend:

Up to now, embryonic stem cell advocates have claimed that they are only interested in stem cells harvested from embryos at the blastocyst (or five-to six-day) stage. They have denied any intention of implanting embryos either in the uterus of a volunteer or in an artificial womb in order to harvest cells, tissues, or organs at more advanced stages of embryonic development or in the fetal stage. Advocates are well aware that most Americans, including those who are prepared to countenance the destruction of very early embryos, are not ready to approve the macabre practice of "fetus farming." However, based on the literature I have read and the evasive answers given by spokesmen for the biotechnology industry at meetings of the President's Council on Bioethics, I fear that the long-term goal is indeed to create an industry in harvesting late embryonic and fetal body parts for use in regenerative medicine and organ transplantation.

Selling fetal body parts to researchers has already become a lucrative business for abortion clinics.

As bad as the goal of "therapeutic" cloning has been, the bioscience industry now appears to have a worse one:

...there is not a single embryonic stem cell therapy even in clinical trials. (By contrast, adult and umbilical cord stem cells are already being used in the treatment of 65 diseases.) All informed commentators know that embryonic stem cells cannot be used in therapies because of their tendency to generate dangerous tumors. However, recent studies show that the problem of tumor formation does not exist in cells taken from cows, mice, and other mammals when embryos have been implanted and extracted after several weeks or months of development (i.e. have been gestated to the late embryonic or fetal stage). This means that the real therapeutic potential lies precisely in the practice of fetus farming. Because the developmental process stabilizes cells (which is why we are not all masses of tumors), it is likely true that stem cells, tissues, and organs harvested from human beings at, say, 16 or 18 weeks or later could be used in the treatment of diseases.

If this sounds far-fetched, the legislation is already in place to make fetal farming a reality:

My suspicions and sense of urgency have been heightened by the fact that my home state of New Jersey has passed a bill that specifically authorizes and encourages human cloning for, among other purposes, the harvesting of "cadaveric fetal tissue." A "cadaver," of course, is a dead body. The bodies in question are those of fetuses created by cloning specifically to be gestated and killed as sources of tissues and organs. What the bill envisages and promotes, in other words, is fetus farming. The biotechnology industry put an enormous amount of money into pushing this bill through the New Jersey legislature and is now funding support for similar bills in states around the country.

The fact emerges that "embryonic" stem cell research is a bait and switch. The real purpose is harvesting fetal tissue for stem cell, which opens the door for the commercial exploitation of fetuses for other tissue "products" and organs.

To most of us this is instinctively repugnant. But our country has been moving away from a worldview that upholds the sanctity of life, so unless utilitarian arguments are countered with the facts,public opinion will eventually be swayed in favor of fetal harvesting. It has already worked in New Jersey. I find it hard to believe that public figures like Nancy Reagan and Michael J Fox really understand what they are promoting, but the bio-tech firm do. There really isn't much standing between us and this brave new world of baby farms.
papijoe 7:08 AM