Wednesday, August 29. 2012
"There were 1,942 recorded incidents of disability hate crime in England and Wales in 2011, an increase of more than 25% on the total for 2010 and the highest since this data was first recorded.... Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows the number of recorded incidents grew by 60% between 2009 and 2011."
Tuesday, August 28. 2012
Why not? He or she is just a ball of cells, a blastocyst. Why would you even care? Maybe because the lives of "spare" IVF embryos do matter. Let Australian Jen Vuk's testimony to her growing anxiety over what to do with her last frozen offspring speak a warning to the practice of the mass production of embryos in IVF. Jen writes:
And, in fact, each bill that arrives in the mail is a step closer to that foreboding 10-year mark when we'll have to decide the blastocyst's fate, as is the case under NSW and Victoria's assisted reproduction laws. Strange, but it feels almost as if we're being asked to choose a favourite child....Despair is what comes from creating multiple offspring in a dish, and then deciding there is no room in your life for the "left-overs."
They have to come here because sex selection using IVF and preimplantation genetic diagnosis is illegal where they live. It needs to be illegal in America as well. Here is why. The Telegraph reports:
They are spending up to £30,000 a time on trips to New York, to guarantee a boy or a girl, according to a clinic.So Dr. Steinberg is tossing out girl embryos in favor of boys for his Asian clients 97% of the time. There is a war on women in the United States, it is just not the war that people think it is.
I hate to be so sensational, but I think it is important for parents to understand that your child's DNA maybe stored in a state government facility and you have no idea.
Impossible you say? You know that heel stick that your child got in the hospital right after birth? Some states keep and catalog that blood for use in further research and some envision a time when a whole genome scan is performed on that sample. Nature recently called the information stored on these cards a genetic "jackpot" and there are scientists who would love to be given access to that treasure trove. In addition, there are real concerns that the information provided by that seemingly innocuous heel stick could be used to usher in a new era of eugenics.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Thursday, August 23. 2012
Autism is as mysterious as it is devastating. Does it have a genetic cause? Is it environmental? Or is there some complex combination of both that derails normal development of communication and social skills.
The treatments for autism are as varied as the patients, since it is often the patient's needs that dictate which treatments are most effective. Some parents have brought their children overseas for stem cell treatments that claim to improve the symptoms of autism.
The FDA has approved a ground-breaking adult stem cell trial in the United States to see if stem cells can in fact help those with autism. Unlike treatments in other countries, this trial will be using cord blood stem cells saved from a child's own umbilical cord. From Scientific American:
A clinical trial being conducted by the Sutter Neuroscience Institute in Sacramento, California to address this situation began recruiting participants today for a highly experimental stem cell therapy for autism. The institute plans to find 30 autistic children between ages 2 and 7 with cord blood banked at the privately-run Cord Blood Registry, located about 100 miles west of the institute....It is much too early to suggest that an autologous stem cell transplant will be a cure for autism. Hopefully, the participants in this study will see some improvement. That would spark more research into a stem cell treatment. It will also shed some light on whether it is efficacious for parents to be engaging in stem cell tourism on behalf of their children.
Wednesday, August 22. 2012
A while back I introduced Creative Minority readers to gene patents. In the 1980s, the United States Patent and Trademark Office started issuing patents for naturally occurring genes. Since then a quarter of our genes have been patented and companies and universities are laying claim to what we naturally produce in our bodies every day.
I asked you to keep your eye on a court battle between Myriad Genetics and the ACLU. To keep this saga pithy, I will crudely summarize: ACLU sues Myriad over its patent on breast cancer gene. Judge agrees gene patents are ridiculous. Myriad appeals. Appeals court overturns verdict saying once DNA is isolated, it can be owned. Case goes to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS kicks it back to the Appeals court to reconsider their ridiculous ruling. Now the Appeals court has upheld these gene patents allowing the systematic claim of ownership of the human body to continue.
So the Appeals Court has ruled again that you own your DNA while it is in your body, but if someone extracts it and identifies the purpose of it, they can own it. Even though it is still your DNA from your body.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Friday, August 17. 2012
Everyone knows about Peter Singer, the utilitarian ethicist that argues for everything from euthanasia to infanticide. People do not know about his protégé Julian Savulescu. It is time to start paying attention.
Who is Julian Savulescu? He is the Director of The Oxford Centre for Neuroethics and the Director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. Savulescu is also the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics that recently published the now infamous article "After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?" Savulescu wrote a defense of the infanticide justification calling it nothing new and suggesting that it was those of us who found the entire thing morally repugnant who had the problem.
Savulescu argues for an seemingly harmless philosophy called "procreative beneficence." He insists that parents should choose the "best" child slated to have the "best" life judged simply on his or her genetics and if parents start being genetically selective about their kids that will make life better for all of us. Savulescu is peddling his wares to popular media. Reader's Digest in the UK just did a piece on Savulescu and his euphemistic "procreative beneficence."
Continue Reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Thursday, August 16. 2012
Increasingly we are learning about the deep-seeded prejudice against girls in some Asian countries. With an estimated 163 million women in Asia "missing" due to sex-selective abortion, which is equivalent to the entire female population of the United States, the lives of Asian women are getting worse not better.
Mara Hvistendahl, reported in her book Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, that "Between 1992 and 2004 China's crime rate nearly doubled. In India from 2003 to 2007 rape cases surged over 30 percent and abductions by over 50 percent prompting the government to unveil female-only trains."
Tanushree Soni, gender expert from Plan International, in an interview with Trustlaw said, “An imbalance of sexes fuels human trafficking and sexual exploitation. It endangers economic development and increases social instability as a growing population of men search for partners. When you see very highly skewed ratios of sex, it’s very likely you’ll get a high prevalence of violence against women and girls.”
So what can we do to help? We can give to charities that take in, and educate poor girls in Asian countries in hopes that these precious little ones will have a better life.
One such charity is the International Foundation for Hope. The mission of IFH is "to uplift and empower economically disadvantaged children by providing basic educational opportunities that are necessary for them to become productive, self-reliant, and self-sufficient adults."
Continue reading at LifeNews >>
Wednesday, August 15. 2012
Parents everywhere want the best for their children. We spend money on swimming lessons, piano lessons, tutors, private coaches and the latest gadgets so that they will have an edge over the other kids. We want them to succeed.
But many want to go beyond lessons and gadgets and actively give their children a genetic advantage with germ-line genetic enhancements. Sounds fantastic doesn't it? Having the smartest, fastest and best looking children on the block.
Logically, this is about as far as most people get before they say, "Sign me and my kids up!" But ask yourself what enhancing our children really means. It means being trapped forever in a dangerous biological game of "Keeping up with the Jones."
Bill McKibben, an environmentalist, in his book Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age, outlines the trap we will fall into once we begin to enhance our offspring:
...if germline manipulation actually does begin, it seems likely to set off a kind of biological arms race.... Of course, the problem with arms races is that you never really get anywhere. If everyone's adding 30 IQ points, then having an IQ of 150 won't get you any closer to Stanford than you were at the outset. The very first athlete engineered to use twice as much oxygen as the next guy will be unbeatable in the Tour de France - but in no time he'll merely be the new standard. You'll have to do what he did to be in the race, but your upgrades won't put you ahead, merely back on a level playing field.The typical argument is that enhancements are just like gadgets. We are always upgrading those, so what's the problem upgrading our kids. The problem is that people are not gadgets. People should never be considered obsolete. But that is exactly where enhancements will take us.
McKibben warns us:
If germline genetic engineering ever starts, it will accelerate endlessly and unstoppable into the future, as individuals make the calculation that they have no choice but to equip their kids for the world that's being made. Once the game is under way, in other words, there will be no moral decisions, only strategic ones. If the technology is going to be stopped, it will have to happen now, before it's quite begun.I wholeheartedly agree. Enhancing our children will be a destructive genie that once it is out of the bottle, will never relent. Enhancements will reduce our moral worth to no more than that of an old computer collecting dust in the corner of the basement. So unless you want your children or grandchildren to become "obsolete" it is time to fight enhancements well before they are a reality.
Sometimes wisdom comes from the strangest places. This one hit me over the head while reading Koontz on the elliptical at my local gym.
Tuesday, August 14. 2012
Dengue Fever afflicts millions of people around the world. It is a virus that is spread by a specific mosquito, the Aedes aegypti. Dengue fever can develop into a more serious disease Dengue hemorrhagic fever which can be fatal. Aedes aegypti is native to Africa, but has spread to other areas including the southern United States.
Oxitec, a company in Oxford, has genetically engineered the Aedes aegypti mosquito so that any males that mate in the wild will produce non-viable offspring. They believe this modification will reduce the population of this particular disease carrying mosquito and unlike pesticide use, will leave other populations of native mosquitoes intact.
Here is a video about Oxitec and what they do:
Most Europeans see the United States as the land that embraces genetic engineering. So imagine the surprise when a British firm — Oxitec — ran into the buzz saw of public opinion trying to introduce a genetically modified (GM) mosquito in Key West to eradicate the dreaded Dengue virus.I have always mused on the irony of how many people are fine with genetic engineering techniques like therapeutic cloning or enhancements in humans, but are adamantly opposed to any cloning or genetic modification of plants and animals, even if there is a therapeutic intent, like with Oxitec's mosquito. I have never been able to wrap my head around this bizarre contradiction.
But Rejeski and Pauwels, I think have touched on the heart of it:
Decades of research on risk perceptions have shown that people differentiate between “voluntary” risks, which we willfully undertake, and “non-voluntary” risks, which are imposed upon us. People will smoke themselves to death while fighting against a nearby factory emitting pollutants.In other words, genetically modifying ourselves and our offspring by choice is one thing, but involuntarily sharing the environment with genetically modified organisms is something else entirely.
Interesting psychology there. It does not bode well for human genetic engineering when all of the concerns about safety seem to be reserved for modifying plants and animals and "choice" is the reigning factor in humans.
Monday, August 13. 2012
Hollywood is clueless about a lot of things. They don't get marriage. They don't get true love. They certainly don't get religion.
But one thing they do get is transhumanism, the promises, the pitfalls and the peril. Bryan Singer, creator of The Usual Suspects and the X-men movies, has made a digital series on transhumanism called H+.
Continue reading at Creative Minority >>
Tuesday, August 7. 2012
Our modern society has commodified the human body so much that I feel sometimes that I am living in a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. It seems that none of us are safe if someone else thinks that they could use our parts better than we can.
Abandoned IVF embryos are seen not as the full human organisms that they are but repositories of harvestable biological material that they must forfeit to "heal the sick."
If you are in a persistent vegetative state, then some think you should forfeit your organs to save others.
Now the UK's National Health Service (NHS), Britain's government run health care system, is considering giving financial incentives to hospital units for providing organs for donation and an opt-out system where it is presumed UK citizens want their organs harvested even if they have not said they want to be a donor.
From the Guardian:
The NHS is considering its biggest shakeup of the ethical, legal and professional rules governing transplants, floating ideas to prolong the lives of people who have no chance of surviving in order to harvest their organs, and to make people opt out rather than in to the donor register.I am sorry but the audacity to think of adopting an opt-out system is outrageous to me. I understand that people are sick and need organs. I know that some of them are very young. But just because they are sick does not mean that a health system can assume I want to have my organs harvested while my heart is still beating. That is I decision I must actively make by opting-in. That is what "donate" means. No one can or should be able to presume I would make that choice. That is unless you see me, not as an individual, but as a bag of organs that would be used better by someone else.
I think this is very bad. We abandoned the human embryo to be harvested for biological material thinking that an embryo was not like us and so could be exploited for parts with no ill effect. But in doing so we made the deal that a human life maybe forfeit to save another. We threw ourselves under the bus when we failed to protect the smallest and most innocent of our species and now we are all increasingly looking like harvestable biological material.
Monday, August 6. 2012
More evidence that the fertility industry is engaged in human experimentation. For years pro-lifers like myself have been screaming that fertility doctors have been experimenting on women and children with whatever new technique might increase pregnancy statistics and with little thought to safety or long-term effects.
As BioEdge reports, a new review 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" and "it's OK because these couples are desperate" outlook. Rachel Brown and Joyce Harper write:
In 1978, the first child conceived by IVF was born. In the following 33 years, numerous technologies and techniques have been developed to further aid the ability to achieve pregnancies in couples for whom natural conception has failed. However, these techniques have rarely been robustly tested and approved before they are routinely offered to infertile couples. In other cases, a development in our scientific understanding of a technique has failed to be quickly incorporated into clinical changes. This raises the concern that some of the techniques offered to some patients offer little or no benefit, and in the worse cases is not confirmed to be safe. This is a particular concern as many of the techniques discussed here are often reserved for already vulnerable patients, such as those with recurrent IVF failure. [Emphasis added]I am reminded of this quote by Veronica Thomas, writer of the blog Children Have Rights - Say No to Repro Tech:
Scientists suspect that embryos that have developed in petri dishes are slightly different in some ways from embryos that develop in the womb, but they are still working out the specifics. They have some indications that IVF embryos are more likely to have certain genetic diseases and developmental problems. but they still need more data.... In other words, if you're an IVF child, then you are a walking human experiment. Scientists are waiting to see what will happen to you as you get older, so that they can complete their data collections on the effects of IVF on people.It is interesting that the Brown and Harper acknowledge that current approaches to infertility do not address the actual problem. They write:
Current techniques do not ‘cure’ infertility, they just overcome it... The most appropriate focus of future research may be to restore fertility.They go on to talk about gene therapy in the precursor to sperm cells (which the Church would find morally acceptable because it would allow conception to take place naturally if it was proven to be safe) but do not mention NaPro Technology.
NaPro Technology (Natural Procreative Technology) is the ethical way to treat infertility. Developed by Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, NaPro Technology focuses on a woman's reproductive health and "provides medical and surgical treatments that cooperate completely with the reproductive system." Thirty years of studying hormonal changes in a woman's cycle and the underlying causes of infertility has culminated in an alternative way to treat infertility that does not replace sexual intercourse or create life outside the body.
NaPro Technology has great results as well. NaPro Technology has been shown to be 3 times more effective than IVF. Couples that failed with IVF succeeded with NaPro Technology. It is cheaper than IVF, does not require egg retrieval, and since it treats the underlying cause of infertility, it allows for couples to get pregnant again and again. NaPro Technology has also been proven effective in preventing miscarriage and premature births. To find a NaPro Technology provider near you visit The Fertility Care Centers of America.
Friday, August 3. 2012
I am no theologian. I know there are probably theological treatises on what happens in the afterlife when we die. I just know there is an afterlife. How do I know? My grandma's oak table.
Continue reading at Creative Minority Report >>
Thursday, August 2. 2012
Years ago I used to juxtapose two quotes that I felt represented the Culture of Life and the Culture of Death on an issue nearly every week. I think I might bring that back starting with these. But because my readers are so smart and don't need me to tell them which is which, I will just call them Culture Quotes:
"The connection between marriage and parenthood is not a vestige—it is a thriving expectation that those who get married will at least consider pursuing parenthood. Marriage is a celebration of two people’s union and the possibility of parenthood. And gay marriage entails not just social approval of gay love, but also social approval of the possibility of gay parenthood.... Because of this, many gay married couples that want to become parents will opt to use ART.... Donor-conception, unlike adoption, is a market where new humans are created to fulfill the demands of the adults that want them. “Commercially conceived” persons are deliberately denied a relationship with one or both of our biological parents. The tragic, primal wound ubiquitous in adoption literature is woven into every commercially conceived person’s life story."
The United States has arguably the most advanced health care in the world. Which is why many Americans are surprised at how many of our fellow citizens are going abroad for stem cell treatments using their own adult stem cells. This is called an autologous stem cell transplant. So why is this autologous stem cell tourism happening and why are these stem cell treatments we keep hearing about not available in the United States?
Progressives often wrongly imply that it has to do with Bush's restrictions on the funding of embryonic stem cell research. And since there is so much misinformation surrounding stem cell research, the public often believes that this is the case. In reality, this kind of stem cell tourism has absolutely nothing to do with that because these are autologous adult stem cell transplants not embryonic stem cell transplants.
The real reason is more complex than simple funding restrictions. It is because of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or FDA. The FDA has categorized an autologous stem cell transplant as it would a drug and therefore autologous stem cell transplants must go through the same rigorous phase trials that a new drug would. From the FDA Regulation of Stem-Cell–Based Therapies in the New England Journal of Medicine:
Any stem-cell–based product that contains cells or tissues that "are highly processed, are used for other than their normal function, are combined with non-tissue components, or are used for metabolic purposes" — and that includes most, if not all, of them — would also be subject to the Public Health Safety Act, Section 351, which regulates the licensing of biologic products and requires the submission of an investigational new drug application to the FDA before studies involving humans are initiated.So because stem cells would be removed from the body and "processed" with components not from the patient to get them to grow, the FDA has ruled that an autologous stem cell transplant is like a drug.
Others disagree with this assessment basically taking the stance that because the stem cells come from the patient, they should not be considered a drug. From a press release from the former American Stem Cell Therapy Association (ASCTA) which changed its name to The International Cellular Medicine Society (ICMS):
"Many patients are dying or suffering daily with incurable diseases or problems that require major surgery. These patients should have access to basic adult stem cell therapy now." stated Christopher J. Centeno, M.D, an ASCTA physician member. "ASCTA is establishing guidelines which will allow the safe use of the patient's own adult stem cells under the supervision of doctors." continued Centeno. Another ASCTA physician member, Frank Falco, M.D. stated, "The FDA's position against someone using their own stem cells is taking it too far. We are talking about a person using their own tissue to treat a degenerative disorder or process safely without the use of medications or surgery. Although we agree that oversight and standards are necessary, this should be provided through a physician organization such as ASCTA rather than by a government agency."A U.S. District Court has now ruled that the FDA has the authority to regulate clinics in the U.S. that are offering autologous stem cell transplants.
Continue Reading at LifeNews.com >>
Wednesday, August 1. 2012
Maybe because I have chosen genetic testing as a profession, I am reluctant to blame prenatal testing for the mass eugenic abortion that occurs in our modern society. I see great potential in protecting and treating the unborn with every new advance.
I often argue that it is the abortion that kills not the information provided by testing and pro-lifers are getting distracted by every new advance in prenatal testing taking our eye of the real moral evil: abortion. It is dangerous, and frankly wrong, to spend our efforts on restricting access to prenatal testing and the information it provides instead of continuing to tackle the abortion industry.
I think a good analogy would be assisted suicide. If assisted suicide was legal all over the United States and rampant among those who get terminal diagnosis, would we urge doctors to stop giving out terminal diagnoses to solve the problem? Of course not. We would work toward changing legislation to restrict assisted suicide and work to support those who have received a terminal diagnosis.
Sometimes I feel alone in the pro-life community as the only one who doesn't get upset at the news of yet other prenatal genetic diagnostic tool. That was until I read this awesome piece by Dr. Gerard Nadal. In response to the many e-mails he got from his readers about early genetic prenatal testing from a simple maternal blood sample, he wrote this:
We live in the age of Molecular Biology, where diagnostics (including those for Down Syndrome) are becoming much more accurate, sensitive, and inexpensive. It’s a blessed thing to behold.Thank-you Dr. Nadal. I no longer feel so alone!
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