Random Thoughts and Stem Cells

First off, I need to apologize for being so self absorbed the last month.

Second, I need to warn you that this is going to be a truly random blog.

Ready? Set! Go!

The world got a little bit crazier while I was on my mental health break. What in the world were members of Congress doing inciting violence? I tried to talk to a friend of mine about this and he just pushed it aside to discuss his feelings on the passage of the Healthcare Bill. All my friends have feelings – strong burning ones – and I feel a little like Switzerland.

I’ve been debating the veracity of the HPV inoculation, looking once again at the issue of water boarding and whether we should hold individuals accountable for operating under a set of rules we now find morally abhorrent, thinking about the nature of time (and coming up with a really cool new superpower), and wondering if our President understood what he was doing when he didn’t grandfather in the existing stem cell lines?   

Earlier this month I was all set to write a piece how the lifting of the stem cell ban had impacted science. Since no one I currently know is working with stem cells I was going to do some digging on the internet and see what I could find. After all – this had to be good news, right?

Oh, so wrong.

NPR did the first story I heard and it made me incredibly sad.  

Research science is a long process. You think government is slow, try research. For the last 8 years only a few stem cell lines have been approved for government funding in the United States. Last year’s lifting of the ban had a caveat – all stem cell lines have to be approved as “derived without creating a human embryo for research purposes or destroying, discarding, or subjecting to harm a human embryo or fetus.”

The problem is that for most of the last decade research on stem cells was restricted to only a few lines. These stem cell lines were not grandfathered into to the Executive Order and proving that they were derived “humanly” has become problematic. It is devastating for researchers. It’s like being a jockey, who at the eleventh hour, has to switch horses. All that work, training, building an understanding of your mount – it’s all gone and have you to start all over again.       

As much as I like observing complex systems our bureaucracy makes my head hurt.  

There are so many moving parts, and part within parts, that we can never “do no harm”. Even the things that we want – to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – to open up stem cell research so we can compete with the rest of the world – to have health care for all – become wrapped up in conflict and compromise. Every layer of bureaucracy that is added, even with the best of intent, makes the system more unstable.   

I wish I had answers rather than critiques. It is easy to criticize and so much harder to look at the whole problem and start chipping away towards a solution.

The funny thing is that we criticize no matter what happens because no solution makes everyone happy.

Take for example the stem cell issue. If the President had grandfathered in the Bush stem cell lines and it was discovered that one or more of the lines were not derived humanly we would be hearing all about that.

There is no winning in government today only awkward truces and tense compromises.

So, I keep being Switzerland.

Not because I back away from the fight, but because I can see the other perspectives.

~ Tess


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