Rubin’s Most Recent Libel of ESC Opponents

Filed in Politics, Science, Social IssuesTags: Clone The Truth, Cloning, Media Bias, Missouri, Sanctity of Life, Stem Cells

There are lies, damn lies and anything uttered by Donn Rubin.

--Mark Twain, paraphrased

Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures (sic) chairman Donn Rubin has already proven himself to be a spin master, but his latest screed is downright slanderous.

In this op/ed piece (h/t Secondhand Smoke), Rubin lauds recent advancements in stem cell research, in which differentiated (adult) stem cells have been induced to revert to a pluripotent (i.e. "embryonic") state. He then goes on to claim that Missourians who oppose embryonic stem cell and cloning research (actually, he refers to such opponents as "stem cell research opponents" - as usual, intentionally obfuscating the difference between research with adult and embryonic stem cells) would have stood in the way of the research that led to these advances.

I think now is as good of a time as any for a good, old-fashioned, paragraph-by-paragraph fisking of Dehr Spinmeister.

Anti-stem cell groups would deter successes.

I defy Rubin to identify even one "anti-stem cell group." To my knowledge, no such group exists. If it does, it is by no means mainstream, and is certainly no credible threat to ESC proponents in Missouri.

Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures lauds the stem cell advances occurring around the world as tremendous steps in medical science's ongoing battle to cure disease, and we eagerly await further discoveries as scientists continue the ethical exploration of this new medical frontier.

An excellent example is last month's widely covered advances in Wisconsin and Japan where scientists were able to reprogram an ordinary skin cell to assume much of the versatility of embryonic stem cells. And, even more recently, this month scientists in London used embryonic stem cells to develop a stem cell "patch" to repair scar tissue from heart attacks and American scientists used embryonic stem cells as a novel way to test the safety of drugs.

As the Secondhand Smoke post points out, the development of the "stem cell 'patch' to repair scar tissue from heart attacks" was in a Petri dish only.

All of these advances demonstrate how important Missouri's constitutional protections are, ensuring that our patients and families have the same access as other Americans to whichever approaches prove most successful and lead to the best medical treatments and cures.

Amendment 2 provided no meaningful protection for either the research that led to these advances nor for any potential treatment derived from them. Neither the research nor derived treatments were or have been threatened. The debated has always concerned Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT, a.k.a. cloning) in order to create viable human embryos for the express purpose of being destroyed in order to harvest pluripotent, embryonic stem cells. The research Rubin cited did not involve anything in that debate.

Moving on - all that was just Rubin's wind-up; now we get to his screwball:

If stem cell research opponents had their way, none of this outstanding science would have been possible. Ironically, they would have blocked the very groundwork that led to the technique they now seem to embrace — the reprogramming of ordinary skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells.

Again, there are no such "stem cell research opponents" but rather opponents of human cloning and embryo-destructive research. In fact, many of us in that camp have very adamantly expressed that we must center our debate not on the ethical nature or efficacy of research involving embryonic stem cells themselves, but rather on the ethical nature and necessity of human cloning and the destruction of viable human embryos for the purpose of that research.

Further, "reprogramming of ordinary skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells" in no way involves either human cloning or the destruction of viable human embryos; rather, it involves induction of a normal, differentiated skin cell into a pluripotent state.

But Rubin doesn't stop there:

For years, anti-stem cell groups in Missouri have discounted the unique lifesaving potential of embryonic stem cells, dismissing evidence presented by the vast majority of leading medical and patient organizations. We're glad to see that they are beginning to accept this lifesaving potential.

(Still waiting for Rubin to identify one of these "anti-stem cell groups in Missouri"...) To the contrary, we have not "discounted the unique lifesaving potential of embryonic stem cells" - with the exception of the uniqueness of that potential. Again, we do not oppose research involving pluripotent (even embryonic) stem cells; rather, we oppose the cloning and/or destruction of human life in order to obtain those stem cells.

As for the "unique lifesaving potential" of ESCs, if that potential had been demonstrated sufficiently, the research would have support from the normal means of funding: the private sector; however, the private sector has indicated - by virtue of the direction of its funding - that it believes in the potential of adult stem cell research. Ironically, it is Rubin and his ilk that continue to ignore and discount the future potential and already proven efficacy of adult stem cells.

They may have joined the bandwagon in celebrating a single technique, but they fail to acknowledge that the advance with reprogrammed cells was merely an initial step that can only achieve its medical potential through additional embryonic stem cell research. The scientists who led these advances, James Thomson of Wisconsin and Shinya Yamanaka of Japan, have stated clearly and unequivocally that all stem cell research must continue. It would be a tragedy if their successes were misused to cut off other important avenues of medical research.

Rubin makes absolutely no sense here. Why would research that neither started nor ended with embryonic stem cells require "additional embryonic stem cell research"? And Rubin outright lies about Yamanaka's beliefs on the subject of continued embryonic stem cell research. This International Herald-Tribune article (h/t ProLifeBlogs) quotes Yamanaka (emphasis added):

Yamanaka was an assistant professor of pharmacology doing research involving embryonic stem cells when he made the social call to the clinic about eight years ago. At the friend's invitation, he looked down the microscope at one of the human embryos stored at the clinic.

The glimpse changed his scientific career.

"When I saw the embryo, I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters," said Yamanaka, 45, a father of two and now a professor at the Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences at Kyoto University. "I thought, we can't keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way."

And again (emphasis added):

He said he had never handled actual embryonic cells himself, and the American lab uses them only to verify that the reprogrammed adult cells are behaving as true stem cells. "There is no way now to get around some use of embryos," he said."But my goal is to avoid using them."

Far from having stated "stated clearly and unequivocally that all stem cell research must continue," Yamanaka clearly and unequivocally wants to eliminate the need for the use of embryos for stem cell research - in fact, by his very words, it is his goal. Rubin's misuse of Yamanaka's research advances and intent in order to bemoan the alleged misuse of those advances moves beyond irony into audacity. It is simply beyond the pale for Rubin - who repeatedly dismisses embryos as "cells in a Petri dish" - to mis-characterize the intent of Yamanaka - who has stated that he sees little difference between a research embryo and his own daughters.

Not only has Rubin no respect for the sanctity of all human life, but he also has no shame.

In the following statement, Rubin hoists his over-used canard, in this case, a tripartite reiteration:

If those seeking to repeal Missouri's constitutional stem cell protections get their way now, they would block the important research required to bring the new technique to its full lifesaving potential.

Those whose aim it is to ban all embryonic stem cell research in Missouri cannot have it both ways. They cannot continue to oppose the very research that is required to achieve the lifesaving goals that they now claim to embrace.

Those who threaten to repeal Missourians' access to stem cell research should step back and allow scientists to conduct the work necessary to achieve the goals that I hope we all share — to cure disease and improve the lives of patients and families.

There you have it: Rubin's imagined opponents desire to "repeal Missouri's constitutional stem cell protections," to "ban all embryonic stem cell research in Missouri," and to "repeal Missourians' access to stem cell research."

We've covered this one, but one more time, for the sake of thoroughness: we do not wish to repeal Missouri's constitutional stem cell protections (per se - I have no problems with protecting stem cell research, though I don't believe such an issue has any place in a state constitution; it is a constructionist matter, not a moral one). We do, however, wish to repeal Missouri's constitutional protection of human cloning. Further, the repeal of that protection would in no way whatsoever impact research such as Dr. Yamanaka's, since his research neither began with nor resulted in an embryonic cell of any kind - much less, one procured through the destruction of a cloned human embryo.

Neither do we wish to ban all embryonic stem cell research in Missouri. We do wish to ban all human cloning, and oppose the destruction of human embryos for such research. Further, we oppose public funding of such research - and therein lies the key issue, and the Stowers (and other ESC researchers) cannot get sufficient private-sector funding, and want the government to foot the bill.

Likewise, we in no way wish to repeal Missourians' access to stem cell research. We fully support research involving adult stem cells, and any other research not involving the destruction of human embryos. We also support their right to seek private funding for whatever legal research they wish to pursue.

Rubin shows his usual lack of honesty and forthrightness; however, in this piece Rubin displays outright slander of his "opponents" and an intentional misrepresentation of Dr. Yamanaka's intentions.

Donn Rubin is a liar. I only wish I could see what Mark Twain would actually have said about him.