Griffith University Skeptics and Freethinkers

“Pro-life” Activists use U.S. Competition Law to Halt Medical Research

In Discrimination, Equality, Helping our community., Human Rights, Responses to the media, Science on September 3, 2010 at 11:32 AM

On the 27th October 2009 a United States court dismissed a case brought forward by Dr James L. Sherley, Dr Theresa Deisher, Nightlight Christian Adoptions (“Nightlight”), Embryos, Shayne and Tina Nelson, William and Patricia Flynn, and the Christian Medical Association (“CMA”). According to court documents, the plaintiffs sought to prevent The National Institutes for Health’ Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research from taking effect.

(a) declaring that the Guidelines are contrary to law, were promulgated without observing the procedures required by law, and constitute arbitrary and capricious agency action; and

(b) enjoining [d]efendants from applying the Guidelines or otherwise funding research involving the destruction of human embryonic stem cells.”

The Plaintiffs appealed and the Court of Appeals concluded that Dr Sherley and Dr Deisher had standing under the competitor standing doctrine, and a block was placed on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. What this means is their case relies on the contention that they are disadvantaged in their effort to get federal research dollars because of illegal competition from embryonic stem-cell researchers. Perhaps tellingly, in its legal filing, the defense noted that Dr. Deisher had never even applied for government research funding.

Director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D: had this to say:

“Human embryonic stem cell research holds great promise for the development of treatments for people threatened by potentially curable diseases. The recent court ruling that halted the federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research could cause irreparable damage and delay potential breakthroughs to improve care for people living with serious diseases and conditions such as spinal cord injury, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease. The injunction threatens to stop progress in one of the most encouraging areas of biomedical research, just as scientists are gaining momentum—and squander the investment we have already made. The possibility of using these cells to replace those that have been damaged by disease or injury is one of the most breathtaking advances we can envision. Human embryonic stem cells also represent a powerful new approach to the early stages of screening for new drugs, and may hold the secrets to creating entirely new, targeted clinical therapies. We must move forward—without delay—to sustain this field of research that provides so much hope for thousands of patients and their families.”

Much can and undoubtedly will be said for the claims of the two remaining plaintiffs and their motivations. For instance Dr. James Sherley, 52 years old, is no stranger to controversy having staged a 12-day hunger strike in 2007 after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology denied him tenure. Dr. Sherley blamed racism for the rejection, a charge the school denied.
Dr Shirley is also on record as

“…an outspoken critic of human embryonic stem cell research and abortion, because both promote the destruction of innocent human beings.”

Dr Theresa Deisher, 47, is the development director for AVM Biotechnology Company and president of the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institiute, of which she has said:

“It is our goal to develop human therapeutics that are morally acceptable and compatible with the magisterium of the Catholic Church.”

Dr Deisher is also on record having stated

“vaccines are an obvious potential environmental trigger for autism.”

The following information is taken directly from the NIH Guidelines on Human Stem Cell Research that the two plantiffs are fighting against and is reprinted her for reader to judge for themselves the veracity of claims being made.

For the purpose of these Guidelines, “human embryonic stem cells (hESCs)” are cells that are derived from the inner cell mass of blastocyst stage human embryos, are capable of dividing without differentiating for a prolonged period in culture, and are known to develop into cells and tissues of the three primary germ layers.

Although hESCs are derived from embryos, such stem cells are not themselves human embryos.

For the purposes of this Section II (A), hESCs should have been derived from human embryos:
1. that were created using in vitro fertilization for reproductive purposes and were no longer needed for this purpose;
2. that were donated by individuals who sought reproductive treatment (hereafter referred to as “donor(s)”) and who gave voluntary written consent for the human embryos to be used for research purposes; and
3. for which all of the following can be assured and documentation provided, such as consent forms, written policies, or other documentation, provided:
a. All options available in the health care facility where treatment was sought pertaining to the embryos no longer needed for reproductive purposes were explained to the individual(s) who sought reproductive treatment.
b. No payments, cash or in kind, were offered for the donated embryos.
c. Policies and/or procedures were in place at the health care facility where the embryos were donated that neither consenting nor refusing to donate embryos for research would affect the quality of care provided to potential donor(s).
d. During the consent process, the donor(s) were informed of the following:
i. that the embryos would be used to derive hESCs for research;
ii. what would happen to the embryos in the derivation of hESCs for research;
iii. that hESCs derived from the embryos might be kept for many years;
iv. that the donation was made without any restriction or direction regarding the individual(s) who may receive medical benefit from the use of the hESCs, such as who may be the recipients of cell transplants.;
v. that the research was not intended to provide direct medical benefit to the donor(s);
vi. that the results of research using the hESCs may have commercial potential, and that the donor(s) would not receive financial or any other benefits from any such commercial development;
vii. whether information that could identify the donor(s) would be available to researchers.

You can judge for yourself whether the claims made by the plaintiffs in this case have any merit, but it seems to this observer at least (and I’m confident I’m not alone here) that any embryo used in research never had any chance of becoming human being.

So it seems quite likely then that all of this is nothing more than an yet another minority ideological view being manipulating the court system to the detriment of everyone.

Jayson D Cooke

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  1. From what I’ve read of the case the judge’s ruling was right and proper and I’m both happy and surprised that such a thing happened in this depraved age.

    Ideology is unimportant in this. The law was violated and the judge corrected that. If that bothers your sensibilities work to get the law changed.

    As for your claim of extremism – they’re not the ones advocating killing human embryos, probably American embryos at that. They’re the ones working within the laws of America to seek redress for perceived wrongs.

    Funny how “freethinkers” automatically derogate people whose thoughts don’t match their own…

  2. Hi Jonolan and thanks for contributing!
    Firstly I have to ask, who are “the ones advocating killing human embryos, probably American embryos at that”?
    Also what difference does it make what country the embryo was sourced from? I’m just curious as all (and not derogatory as you may notice).

    I’d decided to label the two individuals as extremists, based on the content I detail in the post. If you disagree you are more than entitled to. If you decide a hunger strike is the best cause of action, I may apply the same label to you. I reserve the right to apply the label ‘extremist’ to anyone (let alone a high ranking scientist) who would says

    “vaccines are an obvious potential environmental trigger for autism.”

    But I’m well aware that is my opinion only, I’m simply detailing part of what led me to form my opinion. As a “freethinker”, I do not derogate people whose thoughts don’t match my own. I am concerned with the consequences of court ruling, for exactly the same reason Francis Collins (a man with whom I imagine you would share many beliefs) is, namely that:
    “The recent court ruling that halted the federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research could cause irreparable damage and delay potential breakthroughs to improve care for people living with serious diseases and conditions such as spinal cord injury, diabetes, or Parkinson’s disease.”
    As Point 1 and 2 of the NIH Guidelines on Human Stem Cell Research state, the embryos used in such vital research:
    1. that were created using in vitro fertilization for reproductive purposes and were no longer needed for this purpose;

    2. that were donated by individuals who sought reproductive treatment (hereafter referred to as “donor(s)”) and who gave voluntary written consent for the human embryos to be used for research purposes.
    The main point to take away from this is that they were never going to become human beings. Those embryos would be discarded as is standard practice, however rather than waste them, researchers could use them in an attempt to help all of mankind. This possibility to create way’s to help our fellow human being’s is currently on hold however, due to the complaints of two individuals who are each demonstrably opposed to the idea, rather than the reality.
    Please question your convictions, feel ok about doubting, and by all means ask questions. That is after all what it means to be a “Freethinker”.

  3. Jayson,

    If someone advocates ESC then they advocate killing human embryos. The question then becomes is that advocating killing humans.

    As for the sourcing or nationality of the embryos, it matters to some because we find it worse to kill Americans than foreigners, i.e. why kill your own?

    We do, however, have very divergent definitions and/or connotations for the term extremist and differing views on the entire nature of the issue of ESC.

    As far as I can see it is a binary toggle; either it’s killing humans or it’s not. If it is, or if people believe it is, it’s hard for to call working within the law to stop it extremism.

  4. Jonolan,

    To say that if someone advocates ESC then they advocate killing human embryos, skips around the issue that the embryos would not and could not become human beings, according to the NIH guidelines.

    When considered in light of that fact, the question of whether anyone is advocating killing humans is moot. Many use this argument to appeal to the emotion of their listeners/readers, however the reality remains that the embryos in question were never going to become human beings.

    I agree 100% that if the issue was the state sanctioned killing of human beings, it would be hard for to call working within the law to stop it extremism. This issue is perhaps best correlated with the issue of capitol punishment in the USA ie; state sanctioned taking of a human life. Based on the facts of ESC, I don’t believe the two issues are analogous, but I wonder how others may feel?

    Jayson D Cooke

  5. If they’re embryos then many would claim that it’s killing humans. That they weren’t destined for birth is just a symptom of that moral crime, not an excuse for it. The NIH’s guidelines are irrelevant in this case.

    In simpler terms, the moral crime in the eyes of opponents happened when those embryos were created (egg fertilized for sperm) for a purpose other than bringing a human life to fruition.

    That’s not an emotional appeal; that’s working with the logic based upon the accepted postulates – no more or less valid if one bases opinion upon documented facts – of the opponents to ESC.

    As for the similarities between ESC and capital punishment – many view both as wrong. Some view ESC and abortion as worse, because it results in the death on a true innocent.

  6. Embryonic Stem Cells are part of an embryo, not the embryo itself. Of all the embryos on earth at this moment in time, human or otherwise, only the tiniest percentage are destined to fully develop. The embryos that provide the stem cells used in the research we’re talking about were destined for a medical waste bin. Whether this is a tragedy or not may depend on your personal belief more than an understanding of ‘natural’ biological reproduction., I’m not.

    Whichever the case, this waste material is not and could not ever become a human being and to say that it is a human being with all of the rights and privaledges that entails, is to broaden the definition of human being to absurd dimensions. To declare that a tiny collection of cells is a U.S citizen is even more strange from my naturalistic perspective.

    I do try to understand the point of view of the other side in any discussion, however to sacrifice the potential benefit for sick and dying actual human beings who may well be needlessly suffering, in order to protect these otherwise wasted collections of cells seems needlessly wasteful and absurd.

    To me the issue is significantly less cloudy than that of organ donation, which I am also in favor of.

    Jayson D Cooke

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