- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Fetal stem cells yet to be tested on humans

In your fine article about Christian disability activist Mark Pickup, I am quoted as saying there is no research to back up claims for fetal stem cells as a "magic bullet" for currently incurable diseases ("Too high a price to pay for hope," Culture, et cetera, June 21).

The point I was trying to make was a little more specific: There are no clinical trials in humans to back up that claim. There has been a great deal of research in animals using fetal tissue and embryonic stem cells. Some of it is promising, some of it very troubling. (For example, embryonic stem cells have a tendency to turn into tumors and make the tissues around them die when they are placed in a living body.) Despite all the hype, no human being has ever been helped by embryonic stem cells. By comparison, hundreds of thousands of human patients (mostly with cancer and leukemia) have been helped by adult stem cells, and the list of conditions for which these cells offer hope grows every week. Fetal tissue transplants have been attempted for years using federal funds, but results in Parkinson's disease have been extremely disappointing, actually worsening the plight of some patients.

At this stage, committing public funds to fetal and embryonic cell research would be unwise even on pragmatic grounds. It would draw resources away from adult stem cell research that is helping a growing variety of real live people. It also would tell pro-life patients such as Mr. Pickup that they will just have to suffer or violate their own consciences because our research establishment is interested chiefly in treatments that rely on killing other humans. We should focus on promising research that all taxpayers can support and use in good conscience.


Associate director for policy development

Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities

National Conference of Catholic Bishops


Prosecutors seek justice for guilty, not conviction of innocent

As president of the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), representing the interests of local prosecutors nationally, I feel compelled to challenge Paul Craig Roberts' June 19 Commentary column "Justice system that is short on justice?"

Apparently, Mr. Roberts was wooed by a few cases that, presented selectively, appear to prove a point. These cases, however, are hardly representative. One must keep in mind that a small number of prisoners have been released from prison for evidentiary reasons. In most cases, the original conviction occurred before the availability of DNA as a highly reliable forensic tool in special cases. The NDAA believes that DNA testing should be used throughout any stage of criminal proceedings, if such DNA testing can prove, conclusively, the guilt or innocence of a suspect.

Prosecutors seek truth and justice. No prosecutor wants to convict an innocent person thus leaving the guilty person on the streets to commit more crimes. Conversely, the primary interest of defense attorneys is to have their clients found innocent by any means.

Our system of justice is under constant scrutiny by courts, legislatures and the news media. Hundreds of thousands of cases involving serious crimes are prosecuted each year without any allegations of impropriety. Mr. Roberts does a serious disservice to the public when he asserts that our system of justice is flawed. His proposed reforms "making crime labs independent and substituting DNA evidence for junk forensic science" are an example of his faulty reasoning. Most crime labs are independent of prosecutors, and prosecutors support more extensive use of DNA. His unsupported and conclusionary assertions that plea bargains are coerced and that there is a need for "prosecutors and police rededicate themselves to justice" is not even worthy of commentary.

Our justice system is not broken, Mr. Roberts. The American people can draw great comfort in the fact that prosecutors, who are the "people's attorneys," are bound to seek truth and justice when trying a case.



National District Attorneys Association


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