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Nathalie Fohl

The Future is Adult Stem Cells

After an appeals court ruling was announced last week upholding President Obama’s executive order to fund embryo-destructive stem cell research, this week brought news of several recent stem cell breakthroughs.    From spray-on skin to corrective pediatric heart therapies, the promise of stem cell research seems endless.The best news?  Obama is wasting America’s money.  The powerful cells behind every one of these advancements come from adult tissue, making the ethical quandary of destroying tiny human beings for research obsolete.While doctors have been treating patients using adult stem cells since the first bone marrow transplant in 1968, the mechanism of such therapies was unknown until the 1990’s.  Since this realization, adult stem cell research has exploded and now over 50,000 patients are treated with therapies using adult stem cells each year in America alone.Conversely, embryonic stem cell research has been on-going since the 1980’s, producing a grand total of zero successful therapies thus far.  Interestingly, the problem with embryonic stem cells—their complete malleability—is also the characteristic touted as their promise.   Since discovering these apparently all-powerful cells, with their ability to differentiate into any bodily tissue, researchers have prophesied great things to come.Too great, as it turns out.  The totipotency of these cells also means instability.  Researchers encounter enormous difficulty establishing indefinitely proliferating and purifying cells lines.  This means huge quantities of embryonic humans must be destroyed to establish just one line.  Once established, there is the hurdle of directing the desired functional specialization.The most serious problems, however, are encountered upon injection into patients.  Immune rejection is a major issue.  Furthermore, once in the body, the cells’ genetic instability produces tumour formation.  Cancer is the last thing a sick patient needs.Fortunately, adult stem cells have performed where embryonic stem cells have disappointed.  Taken from already-differentiated tissue such as umbilical cord blood, hair follicles,… Read More

Legal Euthanasia Hurts the Disabled

As Quebec’s hearings on euthanasia and assisted suicide finish their tour of the province this month, several disability rights groups are voicing their concerns.  Recognizing the threat that these proposals pose them, they consider discussion of euthanasia and assisted suicide inappropriate at a time when care for those living with disabilities and chronic conditions is still lacking.One such group, The Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Quebec, exists to promote a better quality of life for their membership of 9,000 Quebecers living with these conditions.  Notably, help in dying is not on their list of priorities.Their president, Marc Picard, who lives with spina bifida and hydrocephaly, told the so-called “Death with Dignity” committee last week that the government must “fulfill its obligations to provide basic psychological and health services to the population before talking about the possibility of legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide.” Those advocating for the disabled, like Mr. Picard, know that accepting death as a “treatment” presents a serious threat to adequate care.  Sadly, their concerns are well-founded.Dr. Jerome Lejeune, a French researcher, was heralded as a pioneer for his discovery of the chromosomal basis for Down’s syndrome and other congenital disorders.  Once others realized the ease with which children with chromosomal aberrations could be detected and disposed of in utero or shortly after birth, Lejeune faced enormous difficulty, and outright opposition, in seeking funding for work to develop care for those living with such conditions.  Why seek to minimize or treat a condition when the person with the condition can much more easily be eliminated?Sadly, the euthanasia of infants born with disabilities already happens in Canada and the United States.  A child born with a disability who needs to undergo a routine surgery or treatment for unrelated conditions is frequently denied care solely on the basis of… Read More

Natalie Fohl: Three Bares Hate Speech

While limitations to freedom of expression are generally intended to protect minorities, in reality they empower the majority to silence a minority.  Limiting public discourse is an unacceptable cost of avoiding ideas we may find offensive.First, it should be recognized that no matter the text of an official limitation outlining hateful speech, it is public opinion that ultimately defines what is or is not acceptable.  The most extreme and oft-cited form of hate speech is that which encourages violence against a certain group.  To most, this sounds like a reasonable and perhaps necessary protection.  It is especially invoked in cases where the targeted group was historically victim to marginalization or violence.Notice, however, how infrequently “hate speech” is invoked in cases where violence against the targeted group is considered by many to be justified.  For example, consider the push for euthanasia.  While public opinion over the past few decades has contributed to a public discourse far more respectful of those living with disabilities, there is no cry of “hate speech” against those who advocate for their deaths, whether by lethal prescription or denial of life-saving medical treatment.  This is true despite the fact that such ideas clearly pose a very real threat to the lives, as well as the mental and physical health, of those living with disabilities.Yet, I doubt any of us would advocate for the silencing, much less incarceration, of those promoting euthanasia at Quebec’s recent provincial hearings on the subject.  Public opinion, not formal statues, dictates what speech is considered acceptable and what speech is not.Furthermore, the majority does not need official policy to do this.  Public opinion drowns out unpopular ideas without any formal enforcement, and this can be a proper response.  For example, we should voice our outrage with those who would marginalize or devalue the… Read More

Defunding Planned Parenthood

This past Friday afternoon, the US House of Representatives voted to ban further federal taxpayer dollars from funding the abortion giant Planned Parenthood.  The Pence Amendment was approved 240-185 with bipartisan support.Planned Parenthood is America’s largest abortion provider, performing over 300,000 abortions each year.  In fact, while America’s abortion rate has steadily decreased over the past two decades, Planned Parenthood’s numbers have increased—as of 2006 they performed 224% more abortions than in 1990.   According to recent press reports, all Planned Parenthood regional affiliates will be required to perform abortions by the end of 2013.With an overwhelming majority of Americans opposing taxpayer funding of abortion, de-funding Planned Parenthood is an obvious move for congressmen and women seeking to represent their constituents, many of whom are deeply uncomfortable with the elective procedures they are forced to enable.Despite its not-for-profit designation, Planned Parenthood’s $1.0381 billion budget produces a profit of $85 million (as of 2008).  Nearly a third of its revenue comes from federal, state and local governments ($349.6 million in 2008).  In most cases, Planned Parenthood claims that the hundreds of millions of dollars in government funds do not fund its abortion practice, and are instead allocated for other services.  However, the huge amount of government appropriations frees up other funds to be used for abortion and abortion advocacy.  Taxpayers keep their facilities open, so they can use money from other sources to perform a greater number of abortions.  While Planned Parenthood claims to provide women with options, their focus is clearly abortion: their abortion patients outnumber those receiving prenatal care, adoption referrals, and infertility treatment by more than tenfold.While Planned Parenthood likes to portray itself primarily as a services-based organization, promotion of abortion is a central goal of many of the organization’s programs.  Recently built Planned Parenthood mega-clinics even include space… Read More