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December 28, 2006


>> this is what's cruel about focusing on ESCR - it distracts us from focusing all of our money, time, and energy on adult stem cell research so that those real treatments can become more effective and commonplace for people like Rayilyn

ya but that's not the real issue. Because even if stem cell treatment X COULD save Rasilyn's life, and treatment X involved killing a couple 500-celled kids, you would still tell Rasilyn no dice.

I found this discussion, read the comments: http://www.prolifeblogs.com/articles/archives/2006/07/michael_reagan.php

Steve, I googled this topic and found nothing about further treatments. It appears that one procedure was done. The Senate testimony was in 2004. Have there been other procedures? What is the current state (as of December 2006) of this process?

I assume you're referring to adult stem cell research being used to treat Parkinson's. If you follow the link in my post to "real treatments" you will find a further link to the peer-reviewed studies. I see three studies listed there:

Love S et al., Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor induces neuronal sprouting in human brain, Nature
Medicine 11, 703-704, July 2005

Slevin JT et al., Improvement of bilateral motor functions in patients with Parkinson disease through the
unilateral intraputaminal infusion of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor, Journal of
Neurosurgery 102, 216-222, February 2005

Gill SS et al.; “Direct brain infusion of glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor in Parkinson disease”;
Nature Medicine 9, 589-595; May 2003 (published online 31 March 2003)

See also the July 2004 section of this page: http://stemcellresearch.org/testimony/index.html

Thought experiment:

Rayilyn sits unconscious on one side of a burning IVF lab and 10 frozen embryos sit in a tray on the other side. The lab is on fire and you can only save Rayilyn OR the 10 embryos.

Which do you choose to save?

"Rayilyn sits unconscious on one side of a burning IVF lab and 10 frozen embryos sit in a tray on the other side. The lab is on fire and you can only save Rayilyn OR the 10 embryos.

Which do you choose to save?"

If this fire was on the second floor, and the doors were blocked, you might also have to exit through the window. Does this mean that one ought to use the window to enter and exit the second floor lab all the time just because there is a circumstance that may warrant it?

What each of us would presumably do in that or any other circumstance has no bearing on what is right or wrong. I may be hypocritical in my decision but that doesn't change what is right and wrong. Your hypothetical leaves out many details that could sway one's judgement in either direction. Regardless of what one would choose to do in that situation, we can still assert what is morally right.

I think what is really sad is that so many people are deceived into believing that modern medicine is only a step away from curing any and every disease and that all is needed is more money and a relaxing of ethics to save the human race. Modern medicine has made some wonderful advances but that does not mean that they will be able to cure everything. False hope leads to death, both physically and spiritually.
What if the young lady is someday cured of her disease but does not come to know Christ? A lot of good that will do her in eternity.

Steve is right that we need to approach people with compassion and genuine love concerning their condition and present them with well reasoned information so that they can not only understand their situation from a moral perspective but also hear the Gospel in a way that provides comfort and hope.

Tony, I belive you have suplied the answer to your question, in your own words, 'treatment X involved killing a couple ... kids'. I would definatelly feel that the size of the kids does not matter. This would be a tough answer to give Rasilyn, but we can't fall for situation ethics, 'it is alright to kill person A to save person B '. Person B could be the worlds next Einstien, but I know that more importantly they would be a 'kid'.

I am not frustrated because ASCs are not being used to treat my Parkinson's. I am enraged because people have bought the Family Research Council's hired gun, David Prentice's big lie that ASCS "successfully" treated Dennis Turner's PD. I talked to Turner on 4-24-06 and his PD has returned. Take look at FRC's pamphlet "Adult Stem Cell Treatments Nine Faces of Success" and see a pix of Turner with no dates later than 2002 mentioned in the article that has him on African safaris. 2004 in footnote is date of his appearance with Sen. Brownback at a Senate Hearing. As of 4-24-06 Dr.Levesque's Phase II was still stalled. It is one thing to argue about the ethics of ESCR, quite another to lie about success of ASCR. The other 2 citations, Amgen's GDNF infusion therapy trials did not involve ASCs at all.
Honesty should be on any list of ethical behaviors.

Thanks so much for posting your thoughts. They are very helpful. I have no desire to misrepresent what you meant in your post or to misrepresent the success of adult stem cell research.

Sometimes pro-lifers (like me) hear stories and use them to illustrate a factual claim (e.g. "adult stem cell research is being used to treat real suffering people") but the story turns out to have other facets that color the story differently. They have good intentions and simply don't know the whole story. That's what's happened here. Sometimes when pro-lifers do this, their lack of completeness compromises their point. Here's a hypothetical example: a pro-lifer reads an article that quotes Hilary Clinton as saying that "abortion is a sad and tragic choice for many" and concludes that Clinton is now against legal abortion. Of course, her statement meant nothing of the sort, but the pro-lifer parades it around and perhaps even uses it in fundraising materials. That's a situation in which lack of completeness seriously compromises the point of what the pro-lifer is saying.

In this case, however, my lack of completeness doesn't compromise my point. I never claimed adult stem cell research is a panacea, or that people are being cured with it (see my ASCR document at http://www.str.org/site/DocServer/5_ASCR_therapy.pdf?docID=741). My point was that there are treatments for many conditions in progress with ASCR.

You have brought helpful facts to the table that clarify that ASCR treatments for Parkinson's are not as far along as I had hoped (after simply taking a cursory look at the evidence). But that doesn't mean we should go looking for treatments from ESCR, especially given ESCR's paultry success in animals.

Do you disagree with my main point that adult stem cell research is the best avenue for seeking treatments for many conditions? Is it possible that it is the best current hope for some conditions, but not Parkinson's?

I reviewed the FRC pamphlet you referenced:


I agree that the description of Turner's story leads the reader to believe that he no longer has Parkinson's. When I discuss ASCR, I always try to use the word "treated" instead of "cured," since that is the critical distinction. As I suggest in my article (url in my comment above), we should neither overstate or understate the benefits of ASCR treatments. Do you agree with this?

In any case, even though the FRC pamphlet uses the word "treated," because it uses the phrase "was successfully treated for Parkinson's Disease" and then goes on to describe how Turner's symptoms were almost completely reduced (as of 2002) and how he went on safari afterwards, I agree with you that it leads the the reader to believe that Turner was cured. This is unfortunate and I agree with you that it misleads the reader.

I wonder if Turner opposes the use of his story in the FRC pamphlet (or in my comment above, when I mentioned the July 2004 stories, for that matter).

I think it's important in these discussions to not use suffering people as pawns or to try to advance a point further than the evidence allows (see "Fair," "Honest," and "Humble" in our Ambassador's Creed). Isn't it legitimate, however, to point to success stories even if they only herald limited success? As long as we are careful to not press the point further than the evidence allows (e.g. as long as we don't lead people to believe Turner was cured), aren't these stories helpful to the discussion?

Daniel Mike Jonathan,


hah just kidding.

The question was easy. 10 frozen kids on the left of the room, one adult woman on the right. You can only save the 10 little ones or the adult.

You OUGHT to have just written "Save the kids".

Notice how EASY THIS QUESTION IS when you make the embryos bigger (10 toddlers, 10 boy scouts).

AND HOW HARD AND HOW TWISTY YOUR ANSWERS GOT when you make the embryos smaller. (10 embryos)

Why is that?

Ramesh Ponnuru explains why "Tony's" thought experiment (which, by the way,isn't his own--Ellen Goodman, Ronald Bailey, and others proposed it long before Tony did) fails to apply regarding ESCR:

"The implicit analogy is inapposite. Nobody is being asked to take heroic measures to save human embryos; the law is merely being asked to prohibit their deliberate killing. If my cousin were in a burning building with two other people, I might very well save him for a number of reasons. I would not shoot the other two people even if it somehow increased my cousin’s chances of making it out."

Ponnuru continues with these thoughts:

"If I were in a burning building and in one room was a neighbor's three-week old triplets and in another was your own nine-year old daughter, and I only had time to get into and out of one room safely, who would I rescue?

If I were in a burning building and in one room was the healthy mother of four small children who were utterly dependent on her, and in another were two patients in the final stages of terminal cancer, who would I rescue?

If I were in a burning building and in one room was a research scientist who was making great strides towards a cure for Alzheimer's and in another room were four heroin addicted fifty-eight year old men who move in and out of the penal system and will likely do so for the rest of their lives, who would I rescue?

If I were in a burning building and in one room was a five-year old child and in another were seven people in comas, who would I rescue?

If I were in a burning building and in one room was a five-year-old child and in another were two older women suffering from advanced cases of Parkinson's disease, who would I rescue?

If I were in a burning building and in one room were five men and in another were three pregnant women, who would I rescue?

I could go on.

Answers to any of these questions do not justify actually killing anybody or treating anybody as unequal to anybody else precisely in respect to basic human dignity and the right to life (i.e., the right not to be killed or have one's life used as a mere means to benefit others). In all of these cases, there is no question of my actually killing anyone. The question would be whether I was showing unfair favoritism toward some over others. In answering that question, all kind of things become relevant that would not be relevant to a decision on whther to kill: family ties, the life prospects of the potential rescued beings, the suffering they would undergo if not rescued, etc."


Ah…ya. The burning IVF lab is probably the single most popular thought experiment on this issue so I kinda assumed that people knew that little ol tony didn’t make it.

Here I’ll give you the original quote as I believe the first person to print it was Annas:

“If a fire broke out in a laboratory where the seven embryos were stored, and a two-month-old child was also in the laboratory, and only the embryos or the child could be saved, would anyone hesitate before saving the child? Of course not!”
- George J. Annas, "A French Homunculus in a Tennessee Court," Hastings Center Report 19 (November-December 1989): 22. This is also cited in Bonie Steinbock, Life Before Birth: The Moral and Legal Status of Embryos and Fetuses (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 215.

People cloud this thought experiment by inserting important members into the scenario – i.e. what if it was my daughter on one side and my neighbors daughter on the other. Or what if the president of the united states was on one side of the room. Etc.

But this is not the point of the experiment. The experiment does its work BECAUSE it’s a purely objective question in which the ONLY (I repeat the ONLY) difference is age. i.e. who do you save – Seven Chinese farmers on the left or one Chinese farmer on the right? It’s a ridiculously simple question - any school child immediately sees the ethical weight in it.

And yet (though Christians insist that age simply doesn’t matter), when you change the age of the seven farmers, the answers change too.

Of course this doesn’t prove that an adult has more intrinsic value than an embryo. Such value claims cannot be proven either way. What it does prove though is that, when weighing the question, most people do indeed tend to value (as the verb) the embryonic stage humans less.

A perfect value gauge does not exist and cannot exist. But this ones pretty insightful me thinks.

I wonder though, in the normal procces of things, would the choice include the embryos or would it be preganant women/mothers. One good reason to opose test-tube babies.

Tony wrote:"The question was easy. 10 frozen kids on the left of the room, one adult woman on the right. You can only save the 10 little ones or the adult.

You OUGHT to have just written "Save the kids"."

What if there were 10 toddlers on the left and your sister or brother on the right. Who do you then save? I would save my brother or sister. How about you?

There is more than quantity to consider, that does not mean that they are not human.


ya but your sister wasnt involved.

and christians say age doesnt matter - its the only point of difference here.

Yes, Tony, people do tend to value the embryonic-age people less. That's precisely the problem we face today- people value them so little they think that people at that age are worthless.

As was explained before, though, your analogy doesn't apply because in ESCR, the issue that opponents have is that they see people being actively killed- that's a lot different from deciding to save one person rather than another.

A better analogy might be to have the burning building and then ask whether or not the embryos are worth saving at all, not whether or not saving them is more important than saving an . Or possibly saying you have an and 10 embryos- who do you set on fire? The most ethical answer would be no one, because none of them should be killed.

Age doesn't matter when actively choosing to kill people is concerned. When choosing who to help with limited resources, though, it is clearly a consideration, which is not being denied. That's why there are different answers to your analogy and ESCR.


why does age matter when we choose who to save?

Tony, don't you know we are special because we are capable of conceptualizing "special"?


Tony please consider.

One example of why age matters when we are saving someone:
I remember the experiance of a woman who worked for Defence during World War 2, in the monituring of radio communications. She was given enterance exams, one of the questions was, 'If you were on a sinking boat with two other people, a man and a baby, you are the only one who can swim the 1 mile to the shore of an uninhabited island; who do you save?' The woman said she got it wrong, because she said the baby. The correct answer was to save the man because there would be no way to feed the baby.

That is one example I suppose where age deffinatelly would make a differance. I wonder in the case of the lab fire would the embryos survive if removed from the lab, that would probably be the reasoned answer to why most people would leave the embryos. Also under stress/excitement people respond to what they recognise, and a tray of embryos would generally not be recogniseable as people.

Not that any of this is really realavant considering my earlier post, 'I wonder though, in the normal procces of things, would the choice include the embryos or would it be preganant women/mothers. One good reason to opose test-tube babies.'

I think Dennis has presented a good point.

The movie "I Robot" (with Will Smith) is a favorite movie of mine. There is a scene where he explains how he ended up with a robotic prosthetic arm. He, a 30's something cop, and a 12 year old girl are trapped in submerged cars. A robot passing by can save only one of them. Smith's character (Detective Spooner) cries out "Save the girl, save the girl", but the robot saves him instead. Another character, Dr. Calvin, replies that the robots's brain is a difference engine and had calculated the odds of successful rescue of each. Spooner had the better chance of survival so he was saved. Spooner replies that the lower chance for the girl was still enough, A human would have known that, but he says there is nothing there (tapping on his chest over his heart)a robot is just lights and clockwork. The shot of the girl's face as Spooner is saved and she is left behind is heart breaking.


ah but who should you save

7 Spooners or 1 little girl


so who would save in the case of 1 6 month old or 7 6 day olds?

or 1 two year old or 7 one year olds?

why does time matter here?


Again (in response to your ever-recurring IVF lab question)... the scenario is pointless because it ignores the actual moral question. I don't oppose ESCR because I value X number of embryos more than I value Y number of adults. I oppose it because it is wrong for one group of humans to be experimented on and disassembled to benefit another group.

How about this: would you save 10 adults or one, if you had to choose? Obviously, the 10. What if I told you that to save the 10, we had to take the one healthy one and extract all the good, healthy organs that would save the lives of the other 10 -- look at all the life-saving organs: heart, lungs, kidneys, liver...


Another science fiction reference. See the show Babylon Five, the episode Deathwalker. The link has a synopsis but your really have to see the show to get the point driven home.


An immortality serum that comes at great cost.

It is easy to see why someone entering a burning building would save "Rayilyn" instead of a jar in the freezer. When they see Rayilyn they see a human being, when they see the jar in the freezer they see a jar in the freezer. Besides, they probably do not have cooler handy.

So it is necessary to make sure the scenario includes the stipulation that the rescuer knows that the jar contains viable human embryos. It is also necessary to stipulate that the rescuer knows that taking the embryos out of the freezer will not result in their death, otherwise they will be dead anyway. Of course the stipulation that only one or the other can be saved is crucial to making this a dilemma. There is no question that leaving any living human being behind is going to result in tragedy.

My approach to the scenario, in keeping with my science fiction theme in this thread, would be similar to this:


Anyway, I think Dennis and Paul A have made some good points that have yet to be refuted.

so who would save in the case of 1 6 month old or 7 6 day olds?
or 1 two year old or 7 one year olds?
why does time matter here?'

Glad to know that you see that the scenario is still the same if you have 7 6 day olds, or 1 6 month old, I guess that must mean you see the embryos as people. Not sure why you ask 'why does time matter here?'

'What if I told you that to save the 10, we had to take the one healthy one and extract all the good, healthy organs that would save the lives of the other 10 -- look at all the life-saving organs: heart, lungs, kidneys, liver...'

Good point I am still wwaaiittiinngg for an athiest to answer that question. Maybe they are worrying that we expect them to blaze the trail.

Dennis Turner did not respond to my email to clarify his case once and for all. He did have a DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) surgery to first obtain his brain cells. Dr. Levesque claims Turner was never turned ON. I have had 2 DBSs (for which you must be awake) which control my bilateral tremors pretty well. Google me and find the CNN.com article "I had brain surgery while awake". DBS has been a failure to giving someone their life back. Although I have not heard of fatalities, infections, strokes have happened and it is hard for me to imagine anyone going through this ordeal and not being turned on to see how well it worked. It could account for Turner's improvement, although it was never mentioned to me when I talked to him on 4-24-06. People with Parkinson's are all different with respect to how the disease progresses and how they respond to meds. I'm guessing this is true of other diseases too. I don't believe we will ever know what treatment works for which disease until and unless the research is done. This is why I support and advocate for ALL kinds of stem cell research and I don't believe blastocysts are babies, fetuses, kids or people so I can't understand why people object to it. If a believed a cell was a person I would object too, but I don't.

Patricia Payne has of this date been added to the Family Research Council's ASC successes. As of 2-16-05 she was going to particiate in Levesque's Phase II which as I understand it has been stalled. I came here looking for up-to-date info which is something we all need. She feels ESCR is murder and her husband makes films for the Catholic church. I await a respose from Levesque, her and Turner about their current conditions and Phase II. As an ovarian cancer survivor and 11 year Parkinson's disease prisoner I had hoped this would work, but I don't believe misreprenting the facts or lying about them will change reality.

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