News Articles

LIFE DIGEST: Woman gets windpipe from own adult stem cells; ultrasound law blocked

WASHINGTON (BP)–A Spanish woman has become the first person to receive a transplant of an entire organ fashioned from her own stem cells.

Claudio Castillo, 30 of Barcelona has shown no signs of rejecting her new windpipe after it was placed in her chest in June in the Spanish city, The Independent reported Nov. 19. Researchers used stem cells from Castillo’s blood marrow to grow the replacement organ, which was combined with a donated trachea for the transplant. After four months, she was able to take care of her two children, go dancing and climb two flights of stairs, activities that previously had been impossible for the tuberculosis patient, according to the British newspaper.

The successful transplant again demonstrates the promise of non-embryonic stem cells, which have produced treatments for at least 73 human ailments, according to Do No Harm, a coalition promoting ethics in research.

Embryonic stem cell research (ESCR), meanwhile, has been heavily promoted over the last decade, but it has yet to provide any therapies for human beings and has been plagued by tumors in lab animals. Even more significantly, extracting stem cells from an embryo requires the destruction of the tiny human being. Removing non-embryonic stem cells does not harm the donor.

A Southern Baptist bioethicist described the report as “marvelous news.”

“There is every reason to hope that research using a patient’s own cells will be the most promising way to develop effective therapies,” said C. Ben Mitchell, professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Chicago. He also is a consultant on biomedical and life issues for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“The moral advantage is that this development is something everyone can celebrate — a genuine advance in every way,” he said. “It’s yet another reason to take the ethical high ground and refuse to cannibalize human embryos for their stem cells. Hopefully, President-elect Obama’s bioethics transition team is paying close attention.”

Obama, however, recently named an ESCR proponent, University of Pennsylvania ethics professor Jonathan Moreno, to head the President’s Council on Bioethics review team. Most observers expect Obama to rescind President Bush’s ban on federal funding of the destructive research.

The use of Castillo’s own cells provided another watershed — she became the first whole-organ transplant patient not to require immunosuppressant drugs, The Independent reported.

“This is just the beginning,” said Martin Birchall, a British member of the research team, according to the newspaper. “In 20 years’ time the commonest surgical operations will be regenerative procedures to replace organs and tissues damaged by disease with [self-grown] tissues and organs from the laboratory.”

ULTRASOUND LAW BLOCKED — Oklahoma County District Judge Vicki Robertson has blocked enforcement of an Oklahoma law that requires the performance of an ultrasound on any woman seeking an abortion.

Robertson granted a temporary injunction Oct. 31 to prevent the measure from taking effect the next day, according to The Daily Oklahoman. A court hearing on the injunction is expected to be held in February, the newspaper reported.

The law requires a medical worker to perform an ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion, display the image of the unborn child and explain the sonogram. The mother is not required to view the image.

Pregnancy care centers have reported dramatic upswings in clients choosing to give birth after viewing ultrasound images of their babies.

ECONOMIC LOSS OF ABORTION LEGALIZATION ESTIMATED AT $35 TRILLION — The United States not only has lost about 50.5 million children to abortion since it was legalized, but the result has been a $35 trillion loss to its economy, a pro-life advocate has estimated.

Dennis Howard, founder of Movement for a Better America, has been researching abortion’s economic impact since 1995, he said. His organization arrived at the $35 trillion estimate by studying what the babies who have been killed through abortion since it became legal would have contributed to the American economy in terms of gross domestic product.

The loss grows to $70 trillion when human beings lost to sterilization and abortifacients such as RU 486 and the intrauterine device (IUD) are counted, Howard said in a mid-October column.

‘CHOOSE LIFE’ PLATES SPLIT — Supporters of “Choose Life” license plates have experienced divided results in recent court actions.

The U.S. Supreme Court granted a victory to abortion opponents Oct. 6 when it denied a request to review a lower court decision upholding Arizona’s “Choose Life” license tag. The high court’s action left standing a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion that reversed a judge’s ruling against the specialty plate. A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in January the Arizona License Plate Commission’s rejection of the pro-life plate violated the Arizona Life Coalition’s free-speech rights.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, meanwhile, ruled Nov. 7 the state of Illinois does not have to issue a “Choose Life” license plate, though advocates for the specialty auto tag met the legal requirements. A three-judge panel decided specialty plates are not government speech but the state has the authority to control the content of the plates if the restrictions are reasonable.

VETO SINKS URUGUAY BILL — Uruguay’s president has vetoed a bill that would have legalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

President Tabare Vazquez vetoed the legislation Nov. 13, two days after the Uruguayan Senate approved it in a 17-13 vote. It appears the votes are lacking for an override of the veto, BBC News reported. The legislation would have permitted abortion in such cases as the extreme poverty of the mother and a threat to the health of the mother or baby.

“Our laws cannot ignore the reality of the existence of human life in the gestation period, as scientific evidence clearly shows,” said Vazquez, a physician, in a written statement, according to BBC.
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.