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Stem Cells and Infanticide

John on December 16, 2006 at 12:05 pm

I wanted to write about this sooner, but our web host has been under an intense DDoS attack for the last 24 hours. The attack is apparently coming from Saudi Arabia of all places. As a result, this is the first time since Thursday I’ve been able to view my own site. Even now, it’s moving like molasses.

Anyway, here’s the story courtesy of Lifesite:

Ukraine has long heralded itself as a leader in modern science’s embryonic stem cell quest. BBC News reports that video footage they obtained suggests that the Ukraine is no longer meeting the demand with just embryonic stem cells but is now also killing newborn babies to harvest cells from their more developed bodies.

The Institute for Problems of Cryobiology and Cryomedicine in Kharkov, Ukraine was founded in 1972 as a research facility in the little known field of stem-cell therapy. Techniques for freezing biological samples and cells were developed and publicized from this Institute. In the early 1990′s, researchers from Kharkov Institute, established EmCell, a stem-cell treatment center in the nation’s capital, Kiev, claiming to offer respite from numerous diseases and conditions.

Especially since the founding of EmCell, the Ukraine has been a leader in offering stem-cell therapy and supplying stem-cells to nations across the world.

Mothers who gave birth at certain Ukranian hospitals admitted that they delivered a live baby which was immediately whisked away by hospital staff. When asked about the babies, hospital staff would not answer and the hospitals in question have denied the allegations.

In 2003, a campaign to expose the barbaric practice was successful in forcing the hospital to exhume 30 bodies of dead babies. Footage from the ensuing autopsies was released to the BBC and the Council of Europe.

The BBC report tells of dismembered bodies and mature newborn bodies stripped of organs. Upon seeing the videos of the autopsies on the dead babies, a British forensic pathologist expressed concern that the tiny bodies had been dismembered. Such dismemberment is not a normal post-mortem practice and would suggest there was harvesting of stem cells from internal material such as bone marrow.

Note that the story says EmCell is a world leader in providing stem cell therapies. Here is the EmCell website. The site promotes ESCT as a cure all for everything from Cancer to AIDS to Aging:

ESCT in aging results in improved physical activity, which is manifested by decreased weakness, less tiredness in the evening, improved gait, straightened back, increased work capacity during the day. Observed is also improvement of mental ability, which is demonstrated by quickened decision making process, restoration of short-term memory, and stabilization of emotional sphere. One of the most important ESCT’s achievement in aging is marked cosmetic effect seen in restored complexion and skin color, decrease of small wrinkles, lifting, sparkling eyes. These effects arise from inside, as a result of body rejuvenation, which is unachievable by other methods.

There is even a testimonial letter from a former patient on the site:

I was very impressed by the warmth and hospitality shown to me by you, your colleagues and the staff at the clinic. Secondly, the effect of the treatment was quite dramatic. In one way it is good that I waited until now to write to you as it allows. to reflect on the benefits from the therapy. I will outline these below for your consideration:

- My energy level is much higher. I was very active physically during my holiday in Indonesia and I never seemed to feel tired. I am now able to play 2 to 3 hours of tennis without undue strain and my body seems to recuperate more quickly.

- My mental processes are improved. I feel that I can concentrate better, that my thought processes are clearer and quicker. Again, I seemed to be able to work long hours and still concentrate and work effectively.

- My sexual capacity has improved dramatically.

- Several people commented that I look younger.

If this sounds like a scam, well it does to me too. But I wonder how many Hollywood celebrities have flown to Kiev for this expensive beauty treatment. I’d be really curious to know if stem cell campaigner Michael J. Fox has visited.

Of course not all those who go to Kiev have such shallow reasons or such positive results. Here’s a story of a regular American family who travelled to EmCell for a cure for ALS:

The sting of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis struck the family of 41-year-old Tracy Sheehan again, this time claiming the valiant woman who watched as her sister and two brothers died of the disease.

She also lost a grandfather and uncle to ALS, more familiarly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Her mother, Barbara Holland of West Milton, who was diagnosed with ALS in February 2001 along with Mrs. Sheehan, survives. Mrs. Sheehan died Friday morning after being moved from her home to Hospice of Dayton on Wednesday.

The public rallied around Mrs. Sheehan’s efforts to raise $45,000 to travel to the Emcell Clinic in Kiev, Ukraine, a controversial center using stem cells that attracts desperately ill patients from around the world. There is no cure for ALS.

“I don’t regret going,” she said after returning home from treatments in June. “If there was even a remote chance of getting better or going into remission, I would have gone.”

I’m sorry for Mrs. Sheehan, who has since died from ALS, and for her family. I can understand their desire to do anything — and pay anything — to keep her alive. But I wonder if she would have gone knowing that her treatment was based on the killing of healthy infants.

Of course there is a difference between what EmCell is accused of doing (infanticide) and normal stem cell harvesting techniques. Cells are not infants, though they do have the potential to become infants. I think this story raises important questions about our hope for miracle cures and the lengths we’re willing to go to to secure them.

I’m not sure why this particularly area of medicine seems to attract hucksters, frauds and demagogues, but if the BBC story turns out to be accurate I hope EmCell is shut down and the doctor who runs it is put in prison. Thirty murdered infans are of more value than any amount scientific advancement coming from EmCell.

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