65 Days To Mt. Kilimanjaro – Stem Cell Research – Two Countries, Two Opinions

Today two countries, the United States and France, part of the European Union, rendered two very different opinions on the subject of stem cell research, and those opinions were somewhat surprising in my viewpoint, and past history.

I will be the first to say that an individuals opinion on the subject of embryonic stem cell research is up to each and every person, and it is not my place to inflict my opinion on anyone in regards to my feelings. I have always respected the arguments made by both sides of this subject and feel it is a personal decision.

A US District court ruled 2 to 1 today in favor of stem cell research continuing in this country, a decision that will enable research to move forward with the help of Federal funding by the National Institutes of Health. The NIH has invested more than $500 million dollars in stem cell research thus far. Had this decision been against the continuation of research, previous findings in this field would have either moved to other countries to continue, or would have been forfeited all together.

Ironically, in Europe, a statement by one of the eight advocates general to the European Union’s Court of Justice ruled against the issue of stem cells today. In the words of a UK reporter, “It looks set to kill off a fledgling bioscience discipline that could revolutionise medicine in the 21st century.” This particular issue was raised over the use of stem cells to be used specifically to treat patients with Parkinson’s disease. While the opinion is not a final one on the future of Stem Cell Research in the European Union, it is said that an opinion like this by one of the advocates general usually dictates the outcome in as much as 80% of cases.

I guess the most profound thing about these two rulings is the fact that usually the US takes a more conservative view and Europe takes what has been coined by some as a more liberal view on the subject of embryonic stem cell research. There is irony in the timing of these two opinions and the vast difference in the opinions.

When supporters in the US once feared that researchers working in stem cell research would flee this country for Europe to continue their research, now the tables have turned and those European researchers could abandon their work or come to the US to continue their work in this controversial field.

It is so complex a subject, yet how does one abandon work that could literally change the future of healthcare across the world for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Diabetes, Heart Disease, spinal injuries and many, many more diseases that cause suffering of milions of lives? Is there not some question of what is morally right and wrong for these individuals? Is there not some argument that the level of higher wisdom that these resercher’s have been given should be allowed to prosper for the good of man kind? I guess that is not for me to say! pkp

An obscurantist and absurd judgment
The Independent
April 29, 2011

No one should doubt the gravity of the ruling by one of the eight advocates general to the European Union’s Court of Justice on the issue of stem cells. It looks set to kill off a fledgling bioscience discipline that could revolutionise medicine in the 21st century.

The ruling grew from an objection by Greenpeace in Germany to a patent application from a German scientist who has developed the first clinical applications of stem-cell technology for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The cells used were derived from human embryos, and the French advocate general, Yves Bot, has ruled that such cells could develop into a human being and therefore cannot be patented. His judgment would put an end to studies to use stem cells to repair diseased hearts and damaged spines, and to cure blindness.

This view is at odds with the premiss on which British biosciences have proceeded since the Warnock report decided more than 30 years ago that the use of human embryos was permissible so long as the cells used had been fertilised for less than 14 days. If the 13 Grand Chamber judges of the European Court of Justice now endorse Mr Bot’s opinion, decades of British research in this field will be jettisoned. The advocate general has ruled that even the blastocyst stage of development, reached around five days after fertilisation, must also be classified as an embryo. His ruling even covers an unfertilised ova whose division has been stimulated by parthenogenesis. Such a ruling is obscurantist.

Mr Bot claims his view has taken account of the philosophical, moral, human and economic issues at stake. It is hard to see how. What he has done is elevate a philosophical precautionary principle to absurd limits which take no account of the harm that will be done to hundreds of thousands of people whose health could benefit from these technologies – nor of the fact that stem cell scientists will shift in their entirety to the United States, depriving Europe of a multimillion-pound industry.

An advocate general’s opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice, though judges endorse them in 80 per cent of cases. This is one case in which they must rethink.

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Below, please find a statement just issued to the media regarding today’s stem cell decision by the Parkinson’s Action Network, (PAN)  They are still combing through the 30+ page decision, and will share more information with you in the next few days.

DATELINE: Washington, DC
April 29, 2011

The following statement may be attributed to Amy Rick, CEO of the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN):

This is a day of great hope in the Parkinson’s community!  We are thrilled the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s preliminary injunction decision in the case of Sherley v. Sebelius.  This ruling is an affirmation of what we already knew: that federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research is important and reflects the public’s will.  In reading the opinion, it appears the Court has rejected the plaintiff’s interpretation that Dickey-Wicker prohibits federal funding for this research.  This is also great news for the scientific community, so that they may continue to apply for grants and know that biomedical research can move forward in an ethical and responsible manner.

We’re grateful funding for embryonic stem cell research was not drastically disrupted while we went through this judicial process.  The science can continue to move forward and allow researchers to use the best tools to find better treatments and cures.

To read our statement and related Court documents, visit the PAN website.

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