Friday, August 5

Dr. James Dobson, A Closer Look at Stem Cell Research -- Full transcripto

Here is the full transcript from the radio program with Dr. James Dobson, where he discussed embryonic stem cell research. I have to say, I agree with Dr. Dobson. If this position bothers you, perhaps you need to reconsider your own ethics and whether you are considering all the ramifications of embryonic stem cell research. This is an important position for conservatives, and I think it will destroy Frist's chances at the White House. There is no way, considering his shift in his position, that he will get the Republican nomination. No way. Listen to today's Focus on the Family program here. Read Dr. Dobson's quote where he compares embryonic stem cell research to Nazi experimentation on humans. (marked in bold below)
John: The story has been in the news these past few days and yet, you may not fully grasp the significance of the issue. I'm referring to the matter of embryonic stem cell research. This is "FOF" with Dr. James Dobson. I'm John Fuller and today we're going to be setting aside our scheduled program to talk about this issue, which has great moral importance and implications for the family.

JCD: Well, John, we need to let our listeners know in greater detail what we consider to be a very unfortunate betrayal of the pro-life and pro-family community that occurred last week. Senator Bill Frist, Republican Majority Leader in the United States Senate, has held himself out as being unequivocably [sic unequivocally] pro-life until this point. But that commitment cracked disappointedly last week, when he announced that he would no longer favor protection for embryonic human life. It's a very sad moment for this country and especially, coming from someone that we admire and have relied on in many of these same kinds of issues.

John: Uh-hm.

JCD: You know, other leaders...other conservative Republican senators have gone the same route--Senator Lott, Senator Orin Hatch, Senator Smith of OR. There are just a number of 'em that see it somehow politically to their advantage to abandon the unborn child. And the reasons they give for doing so are very, very suspect. And we want to talk a little bit about that today. You know, for these politicians to promise one thing and run on a pro-life platform and then to bail out when the pressure's on, you know, this feels a whole lot like political expediency to me.

John: Well, a number of those folks you just mentioned are good friends of yours and they have been, as you indicated, very clearly identified with the pro-life community. What's your explanation, your perspective, Doctor , on what you've called this betrayal?

JCD: Well, they are friends of mine, John. These men have joined us and other conservatives in fighting many moral battles through the years. Just recently, Senator Frist became a hero of ours--which is what makes this so difficult, you know--when he stood up to the un...unconstitutional effort by Democrats to derail President Bush's conservative appointments to the federal bench. Even when Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator McCain and Senator DeWine all did their own little dance with the Democrats with the "gang of 14."

John: Yes.

JCD: Yet, Senator Frist stood firm on that issue with what's called a nuclear option or the constitutional option. And we have every reason to believe he's gonna continue to do that. And yet, here on this issue--this fundamental issue--of life, he has bailed out and we deeply regret it.

John: We need to be clear for our listeners that we're not talking politics today. We're talking one of the fundamentals here at FOF--the value of all human life. And...and I think they'll appreciate a great deal the...the guests that we have lined up for this program.

JCD: Yeah, John, we're not talking politics. We're not saying who people should vote for, which is what politics means. It's parties and candidates. And we're not...we're not talking about that. But I do believe that what Senator Frist did is gonna have implications for him down the road, because he aspires to be President and people, I think, will not forget this. But that's as close as we'll get to...to the political realm.

I have invited two great friends and very knowledgeable people to be with us today--one here in the studio and one by telephone. They've helped us out in the past and I love both of them. First is Professor Robbie George, who is a professor of juris prudence at Princeton University and a graduate of Harvard University Law School and Oxford University. In fact, we've tracked him down this time in London. I don't even remember where he was...I think he was--

John: I think he was in Italy last time we had him on the broadcast.

JCD: --he was in Italy several weeks ago. Robbie, you do get around. (Laughter)

Robbie: Well, I'm glad to be on the show, Jim . Thanks for tracking me down.

JCD: This is an issue that goes right to your heart, isn't it?

Robbie: Well, yes, indeed, it does. There's nothing more crucial to any civilization than respect for the principle of the sanctity of human life. And that's what's at stake here and to find ourselves in a situation where those who have been the champions of the pro-life cause are defecting, is extremely worrying. And we...we have to insure that people know what's happening here and are prepared to do what's necessary to bring people back around to...to make clear to those who represent us in the Congress, that we will not accept defections from the pro-life position.

JCD: You know, some people in the media misunderstand me and...and are often kind of shocked by the positions that I take, because it really comes down to this. I had rather be contradicted and disagreed with by somebody who comes from the left end of the spectrum, than stabbed in the back by somebody that I thought was a friend. And when that happens, it's very difficult for me to tolerate that emotionally and that is what I think has happened here.

This is not personal. Senator Frist has not put the knife in my back, but it is essentially placed in the backs of all pro-life and pro-family people around the country. And I know there's a lot of agitation about that, especially because the media is not gonna tell the story and that's why we're doing it today.

Also with us today is Carrie Gordon Earll. She's on our staff; she's our senior policy analyst here at FOF. You're probably seeing her on television. She's out there a lot. She's one of the most articulate spokes ladies that we have. And she has a Masters degree in bioethics and Carrie, you're also pretty agitated by what's happened, aren't you?

Carrie: Well, I am, Dr. Dobson . This is a critical issue. This is pivotal in understanding where biotechnologies are taking us. We're all excited about stem cell research. It can be a very good thing, but the question is, what type of source of stem cell are we talking about? And with this case, we're talking about embryonic. We're talking about the intentional destruction of tiny little humans--

JCD: Yeah.

Carrie: --for the purpose of research. And there is no way someone who is pro-life, who understands that life begins at fertilization, can look at those little lives and say under any circumstances, it's morally or scientifically acceptable to destroy them.

JCD: There are several downright distortions or better word, lies, that are being propagated by the media today, that are failing to tell the American people that there are embryonic stem cells and there are adult stem cells. And all the promise to this point is with adult stem cells, as found in cord blood, as found in bone marrow, as found in body fat and nothing dies to use them. That's where the great promise is.

The embryonic stem cells do result in the death of an embryo and...and the...the second lie that's told is that the Bush administration has prohibited all stem cell research. In fact, we give more money than any other country on earth. And so, it is just not true. People need to understand the difference between the two.

But now we're not dealing with adult stem cells or the...the line of embryonic stem cells that President Bush made available four years ago, which was with those that are already dead. There nothing died. Again, it was consistent with his policy and so, I just want to make sure everybody understands that.

What Senator Frist has done has now gone over the line to destroying life once it's created and that leads in a straight line to cloning and that's what's at stake here. Robbie, do you agree with that?

Robbie: Well, Jim , let me say this. We're all distraught by Senator Frist's defection on this issue. We all thought he had made clear that he was going to stand with us in the defense of human life in all stages and all conditions. And so, this is a devastating blow for us.

But it's also very, very puzzling, because when he announced his shift of position, he made a speech trying to explain himself. And for three-quarters of that speech, anyone listening would have inferred that he was about to announce that he was standing fast in defense of the human embryo. Jim , he said that he believed not only as a matter of faith, but as a matter of science, that human life--the life of a new human being--begins at conception. He said that in the very speech in which he announced his defection.

So, how do you get from an affirmation of the intrinsic dignity of the human embryo as a new human being--a new human life--to the conclusion that it's acceptable not only to destroy life in the embryonic stage, but to use taxpayer dollars to fund the research that's carried on, on the basis of embryo destruction. That's the puzzling thing about the Frist announcement.

JCD: It's political doubletalk, is what it is. Carrie, you actually have a quote from Senator Frist to that point.

Carrie: Well, back in...in 00-00-2004, last summer, he was still on the talk shows, defending the Bush policy. And he said that the question is about the use of taxpayer dollars to destroy human embryos. Now granted, what we're looking at right now isn't necessarily the destruction of the embryo, but it's using those embryonic lines, so that our tax dollars are incentives. So, the Senator's really been all over the map with this.

One of the things that disturbed me the most, Dr. Dobson , about his statement last week, was this is a physician, who stood there on the Senate floor and said that he had looked at the research. He had studied this extensively. However, he conveniently left out new research that we've seen in the last few months. A dozen studies or more, Dr. Dobson , now show that adult stem cells have the same potential and flexibility of pluripotency that embryonic do.

Now we've been listening to the media and to advocates for killing embryos for years tell us, we have to have the embryonic, because that's the gold standards. They're the flexible. Those are the cells that can become any cell tissue or organ in the human body. Now--

JCD: And that's what pluripotent means.

Carrie: --we're finding...that's what pluripotent means.

JCD: It can become heart tissue; it can become anything.

Carrie: Correct. What we are finding now is that the adult stem cells can do the very same thing. We're also finding that the adult stem cells can replicate indefinitely just like the embryonic. So, the very standard that we've been given as to why we have to destroy embryos is being blown out of the water by the research. But Senator Frist conveniently neglected to mention that in his floor speech and that is scientifically inaccurate and that's inexcusable.

JCD: I don't want to reveal too much of a private conversation that I had with Senator Frist, because he hasn't given me permission to do that. But there was one point in our conversation where he said what you just said, that the potential for good medical breakthroughs and miracles in treating diseases is very, very great with these embryonic stem cells.

And so, I said, "Senator, would you be kind enough to have your staff members send me the peer-review journal articles that say that? You...you're obviously quoting something. Would you show me the research that indicates that these embryonic stem cells have all this possibility that they...they had exciting breakthroughs?" And he couldn't do it, because they don't exist. They're not there.

Carrie: The embryonic stem cells have not been used to positively treat one patient, while there are more than 70 diseases and conditions that can be treated by adult stem cells. And I do have the peer-reviewed literature right here on the pluripotency of adult stem cells and we'll be glad to put up our research toward anybody else's research any time.

Robbie: I...I think that there is a problem with a lot of politicians, including Republicans and some who have been on the pro-life side, such as Senator Hatch and now, Senator Frist. I think there's a problem of underestimating the moral fiber of the American people and underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

There's a tendency to believe that with all the hyping of embryonic stem cells, people will simply accept it and will come to believe, no matter what the truth is, that Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease and neurological diseases will be cured by research involving embryonic therapies.

And then, there's an underestimating of the moral fiber of the American people with the tendency to think that once people believe that, then they're going to be willing to do anything, take life at the embryonic stage, engage in the macabre practice of fetal farming, if necessary, in order to get those diseases, because we're all intent on living forever and so forth. But I just don't think that's right. I think if the American people have the facts put to them, they will have the moral fiber to do the right thing.

JCD: John, we're trying to identify ourselves about halfway through programs these days, because we find people list...start listening late or are not able to hear the introduction. Why don't you tell everybody who's talking?

John: Well, that is the voice of Dr. James Dobson right there--this is "FOF"--and our guest today, talking about a very important matter. If you haven't been with us the entire broadcast, the subject has to do with embryonic stem cell research. And we have Carrie Gordon Earll from our staff. She's our senior policy analyst here at FOF and then, Professor Robbie George from Princeton University, calling in from "over the pond," as they would say. (Laughter)

This, Doctor , is something that...that I think is crucial for our listeners to understand, primarily because of all the doubletalk and all the positioning in the media. For instance, I...I heard just this morning on a newscast, that, "Well, those embryos were going to be destroyed anyway." And they tout Dr. Frist and they...there's a real good positioning here of this issue, to try to lead us to the reasoning that...that Senator Frist has adopted for this matter.

Robbie: You know, John, Jim said a moment ago that this leads to cloning. It leads to cloning and to worse and I'll tell you why. The whole issue of in vitro fertilization leftover or spare embryos, is in my opinion, a red herring. It's a side show. All of those embryos are products of the genetic lottery. There's no way to control the genetic structure of those embryos. They have the genetic structure they happen to have.

The real goal of those who want to engage in embryonic stem cell research is to produce embryos by somatic cell nuclear transfer--which is just the scientific phrase for cloning--by cloning, so that they can control the genetic structure of those embryos and do the kind of research that they want to do.

And when I say, "worse than cloning," this...this means cloning in order to bring a new human being into existence, not in order to bring that being to birth, which is morally problematic to begin with, but to take the life of that human being at some stage, perhaps in the early embryonic stage, perhaps later, for the purpose of benefiting other people. A straightforward reduction of a human being, who should be an end in himself, possessing a unique dignity that must be respected, to the status of a mere means to benefit others.

JCD: That brings up the possibility of...of fetal harvesting. I know that's a very...uh...powerful term, but that's where it could lead. And the researchers who are pushing for this and their friends in the media, not only want to be able to clone human beings, but they want the money. They want federal money. Follow the money and you'll see what we do as a people and I don't think that's where we want to go. Carrie, you were gonna respond to something John said.

Carrie: Well, I'd just like to hit two things that our listeners are hearing in this debate as they're listening to the general market media. First of all, they're hearing, "Well, these are leftover embryos that are just gonna be destroyed anyway." These are embryos created by their parents through in vitro fertilization for the purpose of a birth. They were created for the purpose of being implanted and gestated and having a baby.

The parents have a moral responsibility to this offspring. And what's happened, Doctor , is the irresponsible use of this technology has netted excess embryos and the parents are like, "What do I do? I'm done with my family." The parents have a moral responsibility, either to implant that embryo in the genetic mother, place for adoption to another couple, but to do something life-affirming with that embryo.

So, when you hear this, the truth is the majority of the 400,000 embryos that we hear so much about, are being saved by their parents for future childbearing. Only a very small percentage are earmarked for research. So, it's a real misconception.

The other thing that...and...and this is also a big misconception. When...when Senator Frist talks about the parents are gonna discard these anyway, he's...he is saying the parents can give consent for these embryos to be destroyed. So, on one hand, he believes life begins at conception, unless your parents don't want you. And then your life is not of value.

But the whole purpose of parental informed consent is for the best interest of the child. And by no means can you argue that the best interest for these embryos is to be destroyed for research.

JCD: Hm.

Robbie: I think it's important in fairness to Senator Frist, to point out that while he has now come out in favor of funding for embryo destructive research, he has among the principles he articulated in setting out his case, reaffirmed his commitment to the idea that we should not create embryos by cloning or other methods for destruction. So, so far at least, he's defected only on the question of the idea of spare embryos, not on the question of creation for destruction or cloning. But of course, the problem is, with a person who has defected on one fundamental issue--

JCD: Yes.

Robbie: --there's always the concern that he will not hold fast to the principles that he's laid down.

Carrie: The bottom line here is that you will never be satisfied. The research community will never be satisfied. Advocates of cloning and fetal farming and the search for immortality or whatever is behind this--the search for knowledge--will never be satisfied.

Back in August 2001 [08-00-2001] when the President laid down his...his limited funding policy, we said at that time, Dr. Dobson , people aren't gonna be satisfied with this. They're not gonna be satisfied with removing those limits. They're not gonna be satisfied with just cloning.

We have to set immovable moral boundaries to protect the innocence of human life or all of the possible scientific blessings will be of nothing to us.

Robbie: Let me tell you what I think the boundaries should be. We don't need to invent any new principle here. It's the principle that our country has always been committed to--the principle of the inherent and equal dignity of all human beings. That's the principle on which our nation was founded. When the founders said that, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. And among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." We don't need to change that. We need to stick with our principles.

JCD: I think people can understand your very excellent point. You know, the thing that means so much to me here on this issue is that people talk about the potential for good that can come from destroying these little embryos and how we might be able to solve the problem of juvenile diabetes. There's no indication yet, that they're going to do that, but people say that or spinal cord injuries or such things. But I have to ask this question. In World War II, the Nazis experimented on human beings in horrible ways in the concentration camps. And I imagine, if you wanted to take the time to read about it, there would have been some discoveries there that benefitted mankind. You know, if you take a utilitarian approach that if something results in good, then it is good. But that's obviously not true. We condemn what the Nazis did, because there are some things that we always could do, but we haven't done, because science always has to be guided by ethics and by morality. And you remove ethics and morality and you get what happened in Nazi Germany. And that's...that's why, to Senator Frist and the others, who are saying, "Look what may be accomplished," yeah, but there's another issue. There's a higher order of ethics here.
Robbie: And it...it ha...it happens to be the principle upon which all biomedical science is based and that is the principle of respecting the dignity of the human being. That's why we have medicine. We try to heal people. Why? Because people have dignity. They're worth preserving. Their lives have meaning. Their lives have significance. If we turn to killing in the cause of healing, we've compromised the very foundation of our biomedical science.

Carrie: And...and Dr. Dobson , when I hear people say, "Well, these embryos are just gonna be discarded anyway," I will often say, "You know, prisoners on death row are also slated to die and we could learn an awful lot if we went in and took their organs and gave them cancer. There are all sorts of...of experiments that we could do to learn something from them."

But of course, that's not acceptable--

JCD: Yeah.

Carrie: --because the embryo is not recognized as a person, but the...the convicted murderer on death row is.

JCD: And in fact, the People's Republic of China does just that when they're gonna execute people. They bring the ambulance out into the execution site and they shoot 'em in the back of the head, so that they live for a little while and they harvest their body parts. We think that's wrong, even though those body parts might go to save a life. And...

Robbie: And even though the person is going to die anyway and there's nothing we can do to prevent it.

JCD: That's right.

John: The frustrating thing here for me again, thinking of so many of our listeners, who just have not yet been able to get their arms around this issue, is there...there are so many celebrities and important people being touted in the newspapers and on the TV news, saying, "This is an important thing. We have to advocate for embryonic stem cell research." And if you take it at face value, "Well, gee, who am I to argue with that person?"

JCD: Well, I would just like to hear once Ron Reagan or Nancy Reagan admit that there are two kinds of stem cell research, that the President's...President has authorized more than $100 million dollars for adult stem cell research and that, you don't have to do the embryonic variety, where embryos die.

Carrie: Most certainly there are many agendas going on here. There are ideological agendas, where quite...quite frankly, there are people who don't like us. They don't like our pro-life view. They don't like President Bush. They don't like that we are defending the innocent young humans. And they want to embarrass the President. They want his policy overturned for...in their mind, are scientific reasons, but also for political and ideo...ideological.

JCD: Yeah.

Carrie: Now it's interesting to me that when they talk about the late Christopher Reeve and the spinal cord injuries, Doctor , I have documented just in my spare time around here, 60 cases of people who are quadra- and paraplegic, who now have either regained walking ability or bladder control because of adult stem cell, either from nasal, cord blood or bone marrow. Those are actual patients that are being helped today with adult stem cells. But you don't hear the Reagans talk about them.

JCD: That is so well said, Carrie. We're really out of time, but I must ask you, Robbie, to address one thing very quickly before you go. The question is, why would Senator Frist, the Majority Leader in the Senate and the...probably the ranking Republican in the Congress, why would he undercut President Bush, who's trying so hard to stand up for life in this instance?

Robbie: Well--

JCD: I mean--

Robbie: --it's a complete...

JCD: there's no...it makes no sense.

Robbie: You're right, Jim . It makes no sense. It's a complete puzzle. Consider this. Senator Frist knows that President Bush has promised to veto any bill that expands embryo destructive research or the funding of embryo destructive research, which means that there will be no additional funding for embryo destructive research while this President is in office and that means until 00-00-2009. So, what's the point? It makes no sense from a practical vantage point.

JCD: Well, we really are out of time now, John. You know, we're gonna devote tomorrow's program, not to these two wonderful guests, but to the woman who is responsible--largely responsible--for the Snowflake babies--

John: Uh-hm.

JCD: --that come from these frozen embryos and from a member of President Bush's inner circle, his domestic policy advisor. And we're gonna let him talk about the President's policy and do that in the context of the Snowflake babies. So, we'll come back to this. For now, thank you Carrie Gordon Earll again, for being our guest.

Carrie: Thank you.

JCD: And Robbie, Professor Robbie George, thank you for letting us interrupt the end of your vacation in London.

Robbie: Well, thank you, Jim . Pleasure to be on the show.
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