May 28, 2005

Letter to the Paper ILVII

Joe Gandelman is outraged that Arlen Specter came under fire when he made an emotional appeal regarding his own health in favor of embryonic stem cell research facilitation. I think that Gandelman's got a good heart but he got taken in.

A few thoughts:

My heart goes out to Arlen Specter and I hope that he wins his fight with cancer. I'm not sure that anybody is on the other side of that statement, even the "poster boy" guy at the AFA.

Arlen Specter could be wrong. Embryonic stem cells could be a dry hole and hold zero appreciable medical benefits that couldn't be done easier some other way. Specter made a personal appeal to his coworkers in the Senate to save his life. His appearance, his demeanor are legitimate parts of the discussion because he's using them to emotionally manipulate his colleagues. There's a reason for the old tradition of not talking about your illnesses. This sort of discussion is why talking about your illnesses used to be considered unseemly. It places unfair demands on the other side of a conversation.

As a practical matter, Specter will be cured or die before the first embryonic stem cell treatments get to a stage where they can be used on humans. We are very far away from any embryonic stem cell treatments. His charge that he will be denied the best in medical care based on funding decisions for the next budget year is simply a lie. It is an understandable lie and I don't hold it against him as staring mortality in the face can do very odd things to even the best of us. In Specter's case it seems he's got an inflated idea of how long he's going to survive without a cure from present state of the art medicine.

Specter is likely to be less beholden to transportation special interests (for example) but I think that he's far more vulnerable to special interest agitation on medical matters. He's got a very personal stake in medical issues now and his new perspective may not be good public policy for the US.

Children who were adopted as embryos point to an alternative to discarding. I would say that it would be a reasonable challenge for the pro-life community to come up with the cash to save these embryos and for the legislature to facilitate the transfer to embryonic adoption groups as an alternative for intestate estates and more generally. What, precisely, is the harm a woman suffers when an embryo that is not in her body is passed on to a woman who wants one? Even more stark is the question of where is the harm when a dead woman's external embryo is given to someone who eventually brings that embryo to life?

Posted by TMLutas at May 28, 2005 01:46 PM