Saturday, July 29, 2006

Don't bring me that weak stuff

Keith Schmitz, from something called the "mighty" Grassroots Northshore, is guestblogging for Jay. He thinks he gave the smack down to my column in this morning's Journal Sentinel. I am not sure what he thinks was inaccurate.

He doesn't dispute the Rand Corporation's finding that, of the 400,000 frozen embryos that it estimated were in existence at the time, only 11,000 are actually available for research. Maybe he thinks that I was saying that there were only 11000 embryos total, but I quite clearly did not. The point is not how many exist, but how many can be used for research.

I went on to suggest that the reason there may be only 11,000 embryos for research is that the parents of these frozen embryos can't bring themselves to give them up for scientific experiments, citing an article in the lefty magazine Mother Jones (which I sarcastically referred to as a journal of the religious right).

Keith makes a big point of how you can read the article online and see how I misrepresented it, but doesn't deliver. He says the parents are "conflicted." Here's what I said:

It seems that the embryos' parents aren't too keen on the idea. In a recent issue of that notorious religious right magazine Mother Jones, journalist Liza Mundy writes that couples who have participated in the creation of embryos for in vitro fertilization stubbornly refuse to see the embryos as biological material. It seems that, in overwhelming numbers, they cannot bring themselves to destroy the embryos or to turn them over for research because, whether they be "lives" or "potential lives," creating them for destruction seems wrong.

That sounds consistent with "conflicted to me." Keith tries to refute what I said by quoting a researcher who says he found "[s]ome saw them as biological material, but most recognized the potential for life...." I guess he showed me.

The upshot of all of this is that there are hundreds of thousands of human embryos that parents may never use, but which they will not destroy or donate for research.
The article quotes a doctor who is afraid he won't be able to sell his practice when he retires because the buyer will have to assume responsibility for God knows how many frozen embryos.

The point of all of this, of course, is that the argument that we're "just" talking about using embryos that are going to be destroyed anyway is a feint. It's a key part of the slippery slope. We start on those. It won't be enough. We already do embryo-destructive research, so why not make more embryos specifically for research. Why not clone them?

This is, I argued in the paper, the only way in which Doyle can claim his ad attacking Green is not an outright lie. He accuses Green of voting to outlaw stem cell research. But the votes he cites were to outlaw cloning human embryos. So unless cloning is essential to "embryonic) stem cell research"(NB: are the Dems going to be just as reluctant to say "embryonic" as they are to say "abortion"), then Doyle has told a flat out lie. Keith doesn't address that.

He does try to suggest, however, that the Mother Jones article supports the proposition that parents are decisive about what to with excess embryos, quoting the following description of a study by a Northwestern professor named Klock:

...many patients begin in virtro fertilization with some notion about how they will dispose of surplus embryos. (The choices come down to five: use them; donate them for research; donate them to another infertile person; freeze them indefinitely; or have them thawed, that is, quietly disposed of.)

That completely misses the point of the Klock study. Right after the language that Keith quotes, you find the following:

What Klock also reported was that many couples found their thinking transformed once treatment was over. More than half the couples who had planned to dispose of their embryos decided, instead, to use them, or donate them. Conversely, seven of the eight couples who had planned to donate them to research decided to use them, or dispose of them. Nearly all who had planned to donate their embryos to another couple found that, when push came to shove, they could not relinquish their potential genetic offspring. In short: Almost all reconsidered, not in any way that could be neatly summarized. All in all, 71 percent changed their minds about what to do.

Its ok to be too busy to blog, Jay, but, please, a little quality control.

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