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Thread: Are they really concerned with "false hope" or are they taking away hope?

  1. #1

    Are they really concerned with "false hope" or are they taking away hope?

    In the last few days, the words "false hope" have been bandied around a great deal with regard to the possibility of curing spinal cord injury. At first, I thought that this was just election year talk but it is becoming apparent that there is more to the accusations of "false hope" than meets the eye. A major dichotomy has appeared between the Republican and Democratic parties on the issue of hope for curing spinal cord injury.

    As everybody knows, Christopher Reeve died a week ago. Several days later, the democratic Vice-presidential candidate John Edwards said at an Iowa Campaign Rally:
    Christopher Reeve just passed away. And America just lost a great champion for this cause. Somebody who is a powerful voice for the need to do stem cell research and change the lives of people like him, who have gone through the tragedy. Well, if we can do the work that we can do in this country -- the work we will do when John Kerry is president -- people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk. Get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.
    The reaction from the Republican side has been vociferous. The Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist accused Edwards of being "crass" and "shameful" for giving "false hope" (Source) saying:
    I find it opportunistic to use the death of someone like Christopher Reeve -- I think it is shameful -- in order to mislead the American people," Frist said. "We should be offering people hope, but neither physicians, scientists, public servants or trial lawyers like John Edwards should be offering hype. It is cruel to people who have disabilities and chronic diseases, and, on top of that, it's dishonest. It's giving false hope to people, and I can tell you as a physician who's treated scores of thousands of patients that you don't give them false hope.
    Many others have criticized Edwards. Joe Bell has an editorial on October 17 stating that "...the unsubtle insinuation that placing Kerry in the White House will lead to curing individuals now confined to wheelchairs, and that voting for President George W. Bush will keep them there, is contemptible." Jay Ambrose of the Modesto Bee said " Edwards told one [a distortion] when he suggested cures could be forthcoming in a few years." Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily calls Kerry and Edwards "Snake-oil salesmen". CK Rairden in the Washington Dispatch called it "blatant exploitation".

    In an editorial today in the Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News, Charles Krauthammer calls John Edwards "the despicable snake-oil salesman" and said:
    In my 25 years in Washington, I have never seen a more loathsome display of demagoguery. Hope is good. False hope is bad. Deliberately raising for personal gain false hope in the catastrophically afflicted is despicable. Where does one begin to deconstruct this outrage?

    First, the inability of the human spinal cord to regenerate is one of the great mysteries of biology. The answer is not remotely around the corner. It could take a generation to unravel. To imply, as Edwards did, that it is imminent if only you elect the right politicians is scandalous.

    Second, if the cure for spinal cord injury comes, we have no idea where it will come from. There are many lines of inquiry. Stem cell research is just one of many possibilities, and a very speculative one at that. For 30 years I have heard promises of miracle cures for paralysis (including my own, suffered as a medical student). The last fad, fetal tissue transplants, was thought to be a sure thing. Nothing came of it.

    As a doctor by training, I've known better than to believe the hype - and have tried in my own counseling of the newly spinal-cord injured to place the possibility of cure in abeyance. I advise instead to concentrate on making a life (and a very good life it can be) with the hand one is dealt. The greatest enemy of this advice has been the snake-oil salesmen promising a miracle around the corner. I never expected a candidate for vice president to be one of them.

    Third, the implication that Christopher Reeve was prevented from getting out of his wheelchair by the Bush stem cell policies is a travesty. Bush is the first President to approve federal funding for stem cell research. There are 22 lines of stem cells now available, up from one just two years ago. As Dr. Leon Kass, head of the President's Council on Bioethics, has written, there are 3,500 shipments of stem cells waiting for anybody who wants them. Edwards and Kerry constantly talk of a Bush "ban" on stem cell research. This is false. There is no ban. You want to study stem cells? You get them from the companies that have the cells and apply to the National Institutes of Health for the federal funding.
    Krauthammer's article is troubling. He is a member of the President's Bioethics Council and is supposed to be giving unbiased and thoughtful advice on bioethical issues to our nation. Instead, we find him shamelessly pandering to the Republican spin that President Bush supports human embryonic stem cell research. Krauthammer knows better. He knows that Bush stopped NIH in 2001 from funding approved studies of human embryonic stem cells derived from blastocysts being discarded from fertility clinics. He knows that Bush banned NIH funding of human embryonic stem cells derived after August 9, 2001. He knows that the Bush's claim of over 60 human embryonic stem cell lines available for research is wrong and few lines were available for research, essentially stopping the research. He knows that none of the approved cell lines are suitable for human application because they are grown with mouse cells. He knows that Bush has forbidden NIH funding of research to derive new lines that would be suitable for human use. Krauthammer had repeatedly attacked Christopher Reeve before he died and is unfortunately continuing to do so.

    As a scientist who works on stem cell research and spinal cord injury, and a friend of Christopher Reeve, I am troubled by these attacks on Edwards. Let us get some obvious falsehoods out of the way first. Edwards did not give a time-frame for getting "people like Christopher Reeve" out of their wheelchairs. He did not mention Bush nor imply that Bush's policies kept Christopher Reeve from getting out of his wheelchair. He did not say that stem cell research would have gotten Christopher Reeve out of the wheelchair. Edwards simply said what Christopher Reeve himself would have said. Christopher championed embryonic stem cell research. He strongly supported Kerry and Edwards and their positions on stem cell research and spinal cord injury research. And, Christopher believed that research will yield a cure for spinal cord injury.

    All the criticism of Edwards have one underlying assumption. The critics assume that it is giving false hope to people to claim that they will be getting out of their wheelchairs. They believe that it will not happen any time soon or at all. I am particularly dismayed by Senator Frist's comments because he is the Majority Leader of the Senate and is a doctor. He should understand that it is harmful to take away hope from people, to tell them that there is no basis to all the promising research that is going on. I wish that, before he said that Edwards is giving "false hope" to the people, he had talked to some scientists who are working hard to cure spinal cord injury. Is he not aware that a majority of neuroscientists believe that the spinal cord can regenerate?

    It has been barely a week since Christopher Reeve died and we are seeing a return of the therapeutic nihilism that Christopher fought so hard against. The pessimists are coming back out of their closets. Cloaking their dank hopelessness with saccharin praise for Christopher's heroism, they have begun systematically dismantling his legacy, calling it "hype" and "snake-oil". They should understand that they are not just attacking Edwards but Christopher Reeve and all that he stood for. They are attacking the concept that a cure for spinal cord injury is possible and that we must work together to achieve that goal.

    [This message was edited by Wise Young on 10-17-04 at 02:06 PM.]

  2. #2
    Senior Member Rollin Rick's Avatar
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    Great statement Dr. Young.

    Time to ride not roll

  3. #3
    Senior Member ResonantEcho's Avatar
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    He knows that the Bush's claim of over 60 human embryonic stem cell lines available for research is wrong and few lines were available for research, essentially stopping the research.
    Wise,

    In Charles' last article he didn't claim 60 human embryonic stem cell lines were available. He said, "There are 22 lines of stem cells now available, up from one just two years ago."

    How about addressing the fact Kerry and Edwards keep using the word "ban" when referring to Bush's stem cell policy. Is this correct? Has Bush "banned" embryonic stem cell research? Kerry repeated this word once again in his radio address Saturday. Just a simple yes or no answer would suffice. I already know how you feel about Bush's policy overall.

    In regard to the meaning of Edward's statement. Not everyone is as educated about stem cell research as you or others that frequent this forum. So to assume Edward's statement could not be interpreted by others in any other way but yours is not being fair.

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  4. #4
    Seems to me the Republicans/conservatives are on the defensive concerning this issue. Words like scandalous, demagoguery, despicable, crass, shameful, etc., lots of fire and brimstone rhetoric and mock outrage because they know the current policies are wrong and in the minority. And Frist using his M.D. as qualification to speak out on the subject belittles the Hippocratic oath.

    Harris

  5. #5
    resonant,

    Yes, Krauthammer did say that there was only one line that was available in August 2001, at the time when Bush claimed that there were over 60 lines available for research. After 3 years and $35 million of investment into those lines by NIH, there are currently 22 approved lines, all unsuitable for human use. So, don't you think that Krauthammer is misleading the American public with his claims?

    Wise.

  6. #6
    Senior Member ResonantEcho's Avatar
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    So, don't you think that Krauthammer is misleading the American public with his claims?
    Who knows what to believe, Wise. Krauthammer isn't the only person to make the claim.

    You didn't answer my question in regard to the word "ban" being thrown around. Did Bush "ban" embryonic stem cell research? You definitely can argue Bush's policies have slow downed embryonic stem cell research in the United States. However, once again, did he "ban" the research?

    Also, let us say Bush did allow federal funding for research in 2001. How much closer to a cure do you think we would be?

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  7. #7
    resonant,

    Bush banned NIH funding for studies of human embryonic stem cells derived after August 9, 2001. He misled the American public by saying that there were over 60 human embryonic cell lines available for research to justify this ban. Even when it became amply clear that he was wrong, Bush refused to change his policy. Krauthammer knows this. That is why I am so troubled by his statements.

    How much closer to a cure do I think that we would be if Bush allowed federal funding for the research in 2001? I don't know. I know that we would not have wasted $35 million trying to resurrect old cell lines, that we would now have more stem cell lines to study, and that we would be further along in understanding what human embryonic stem cells do and how. I know that the United States would still be leading embryonic stem cell research today instead of trying to come out from behind the 8-ball that was placed in front of us. I also know that it will be another four years of the same if Bush is elected. Is that what you want?

    Wise.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Leo's Avatar
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    Wise, I don't think its nothing more than politics. It's going to be a long two weeks of he said/he said and truth is out the window.

    "All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given you."
    Gandolf the Gray

  9. #9
    Who knows what to believe, Wise
    RE

    Exactly-clouding and confusing the issue they stall research

  10. #10
    Senior Member ResonantEcho's Avatar
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    Exactly-clouding and confusing the issue they stall research
    Really? I would say those doing the research make it just as confusing. Here are some quotes from just one article I have read recently:

    "We do not yet know enough about adult stem cells or ESCs to make dogmatic statements of either," declared Dr. Darwin Prockop, director of the Gene Therapy Center at Tulane University, in a letter that appeared in Science.

    "There's no law of physics or such that I know of that says that [ASCs] are inherently more limited than embryonic stem cells," Prockop told Citizen.

    We do know that ESCs give rise to all three germ layers (as in "germination") that become all the forms of human tissue. But this doesn't necessarily mean that they can be converted into each and every one of those tissues. Moreover, Catherine Verfaillie and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Institute recently have found stem cells in human marrow that appear to transform into all three germ layers. "I think Verfaillie's work is most exciting and translatable into the clinical arena," says Dr. David Hess, a neurologist at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. "They seem to give rise to every cell in the body. She seems to have a subpopulation with basically all the benefits of ESCs and none of the drawbacks."

    "We found that they express genes typical of all three embryonic germ layers," the researchers told Citizen. "In aggregate, our study and various others do support the idea that one [ASC] can give rise to all types of tissue."

    Even scientists who strongly favor ESC funding readily admit that the issue is highly politicized, with ASCs getting the short end of the stick from research publications, the popular media and the scientific community. Blau, Prockop, Black and Verfaillie are among them. "Most scientists never want a door closed, they want all doors open," says Hess. "And anybody who disagrees with that stance is seen as trying to hold up medical progress."

    Another ASC researcher who strongly supports funding for ESCs is Patricia Zuk, whose lab has shown that America's most plentiful natural resource - body fat - can provide a limitless source for stem cells capable of differentiating into bone, muscle, cartilage and fat that can be used to fill in scars and wrinkles. "Certainly it's politicized," she says. But, she adds, "I think a lot of embryonic stem-cell people are right in trying to protect their jobs."

    Understandable, yes. But is it right? Forget for the moment the questionable morality of a mass campaign to fool the American public. Zuk admits that the stem-cell wars are "very worrisome" in that they could harm her own efforts to get grant money. Says Hess, "Certainly one of my motivations is I don't want money from adult stem-cell research being pushed into embryonic, though it's already starting to happen."
    Full story here...

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