Last week, Charles Krauthammer wrote a shameful column for the Washington Post in which he tried to defend President Bush's refusal to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Krauthammer - along with the rest of Bush's conservative base - took last month's announcement of a scientific discovery that human skin cells can possibly be used in similar ways as embryonic stem cells, completely distorted it, and falsely declared the embryonic stem cell debate "over". He wrote, "The verdict is clear: Rarely has a president - so vilified for a moral stance - been so thoroughly vindicated."
Krauthammer's arguments simply don't add up. He's twisting information to try to make President Bush appear like the good guy -- not the bad guy who has vetoed legislation to expand the funding of life-saving scientific research TWICE in the past fifteen months.
Krauthammer's assertions are wrong. Krauthammer - and the rest of the anti-embryonic- stem-cell-research, "moral values"-based right wing - wants to substitute embryonic stem cell research with this new human skin cell discovery, and the two just don't equate. No evidence yet exists that this new research is effective. Shinya Yamanaka, the leader of the Kyoto University research team even said this: "It was a breakthrough. It allowed us to see a goal. But the goal is far off in the distance."
This conservative ploy to take attention away from - and even halt - embryonic stem cell research is appalling. The irony is that the President's belief that embryonic stem cell research is immoral is preventing funding for research that can SAVE LIVES! We know this to be true because stem cells have been studied for over forty years. So while - as Alan I. Leshner and James A. Thomson explained in their Washington Post op/ed Monday - the new method of stem cell therapy may produce "potential landmarks, these studies are only a first step on the long road toward eventual therapies."
Though Krauthammer might believe the stem cell debate is history now that he's learned of a new breakthrough, this new advancement is exactly that: new. It's been over twenty- five years since the derivation of the first embryonic stem cell - without which, this new method would never have come to fruition.
Embryonic stem cell research must not be thrown to the wayside in exchange for something that could only potentially replace it. Until we know exactly how this new method works, and it is proven to treat - if not cure - diseases like Diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's, embryonic stem cell research must continue.
Leshner and Thomson explained:
Being able to reprogram skin cells into multipurpose stem cells without harming embryos launches an exciting new line of research. It's important to remember, though, that we're at square one, uncertain at this early stage whether souped-up skin cells hold the same promise as their embryonic cousins do.
They even went so far as to say that while they're hopeful about the new research, "it's too early to say we're certain."
Embryonic stem cell research remains the only feasible option on the table today. Until an equally viable option exists, Bush must be held accountable for his refusal to pass legislation to fund proven effective scientific research. The push for embryonic stem cell funding must press on.
While this new discovery of the use of human skin cells might be the future of stem cell research, embryonic stem cell research remains the present effective method.