Same as it ever was

26 07 2015

Medical research is gross.

No, wait, scratch that: biological research is gross.

There’s blood, and guts, and sawed-through bones. There are transgenic creatures, creatures which have been induced to glow, and shall we discuss fecal transplants?

Terribly useful, yes. But also gross.

And you’ve all seen the photo of the mouse with the ear on its back, right? Mother Jones helpfully compiled a list of weird experiments with mice, and while the naked ear-ed mouse doesn’t bother me, I cannot look at that last picture.

I just, I can’t, and you can’t make me. (This is me squinching my eyes tight.)

I find it profoundly disturbing.

So, on some level, I can empathize with those who are profoundly disturbed that Planned Parenthood donates fetal tissue for research. It sounds terrible.

Of course, much of the uproar deals with the alleged sale of said tissues and organs—an act which, if true, would be terribly illegal—but there is little evidence to indicate that Planned Parenthood has or does sell tissue.

They do charge for storage and maintenance, which fees are quite legal. The whole business is quite legal.

See Public Law 103-43, passed into law in June, 1993, in particular, Part 498A (a):

(1) IN GENERAL – The Secretary may conduct or support research on the transplantation of human fetal tissue for therapeutic purposes.

(2) SOURCE OF TISSUE – Human fetal tissue may be used in research carried out under paragraph (1) regardless of whether the tissue is obtained pursuant to a spontaneous or induced abortion or pursuant to a stillbirth.

There are important sections on the conditions of a licit donation, auditing of procedures, research and state law, and then:

PROHIBITIONS REGARDING HUMAN FETAL TISSUE SEC. 498B.

(a) PURCHASE OF TISSUE– It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human fetal tissue for valuable consideration if the transfer affects interstate commerce.

Some statutes can be written in such a way as to obscure their meanings, but this one is not: fetal tissue sales are illegal.

(In fact, the sale of any human organ or tissue (with the exceptions of gametes, blood, and plasma) are illegal in the United State; only Iran (currently) has a legalized organ trade. It is a matter of serious ethical debate whether such sales should be allowed, but, again, under the current Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, they are prohibited.)

But what of the prices discussed? Scroll down to subsection

(d) DEFINITIONS – For purposes of this section:

. . .(3) The term valuable consideration’ does not include reasonable payments associated with the transportation, implantation, processing, preservation, quality control, or storage of human fetal tissue.’.

Et voilà: charging for fetal tissue is not illegal.

Again, this might be disturbing to those who are generally unaware of how biomedical research is conducted in this country (or around the world), or of the bloodiness of medical practice generally.

Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN and pain specialist, responded bluntly to the alleged wrongs revealed in that Center for Medical Progress sting video:

Hearing medical professionals talk casually about products of conception may seem distasteful to some, but not to doctors. Medical procedures are gory by nature. Surgeons routinely cut skin, saw bones, and lift the uterus out of the abdominal cavity and then put it back in. We stick our hands inside people and it is messy. We handle broken limbs, rotting flesh, and cancers that smell. We talk about this calmly because this is what we are trained to do. It doesn’t mean that we are heartless; it means we are professionals and this is our norm for a clinical conversation. There is no reason a conversation about products of conception requires more or less reverence than one about a kidney or a biopsy specimen.

Furthermore,

Hearing medical professionals negotiate with a private buyer over the price for collecting tissue may also seem distasteful, but there is indeed an expense involved for the donor (in this case, Planned Parenthood). FactCheck.org contacted several researchers who work with human tissue, and the price range mentioned in the videos—$30 to $100 per patient—is on the low end. “There’s no way there’s a profit at that price,” Sherilyn J. Sawyer, the director of Harvard University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Biorepository, told the website.

Again, anyone could reasonably be put off by all of this, just as anyone outside of a particular field may be put off by the behaviors and standards of those in the field. I don’t want to see what happens in even an humane slaughterhouse, and I regularly avert my eyes (when not otherwise avoiding) depictions of animals being killed. I find it distressing.

But just because it is distressing does not mean it’s unethical. Some proponents of the “yuck factor” theory of ethics believe that our reactions of distress and disgust can be signals of a deeper moral response, but I think it more a matter of unfamiliarity and cultural taboo, and thus a rather unsteady guide to moral behavior.

In other words, insofar as I accept that biomedical research and medical treatment are in general both good, and that such practices depend at least in part on research on human body parts, I accept that something that sounds terrible—legal trade in human body parts—may not be terrible.

That said, I do think the tissue market as it currently exists, legal though it may be, is also problematic, largely because it pushes the process of commodification ever further into our bodies. That tissue banks aren’t always upfront about the destination of donated tissues, e.g., that skin may be used for a cosmetic surgery rather than burn patient only adds to the murk of this market.

Most of those reacting strongly to the discussion in the video, however, are less concerned about the legal tissue market (and in fact are convinced that Planned Parenthood is breaking the law) than that this somehow reveals something extra-unsavory about both Planned Parenthood and abortion.

They don’t want to overturn PL 103-43 or the UAGA, aren’t calling for changes to the regulation of the tissue markets, or going undercover at tissue banks. They aren’t concerned about how gross it is to skin a cadaver.

No, this is about abortion, not fetal tissue, not alleged illegal activity, but about how abortion in general and Planned Parenthood in particular are terrible.

In other words, while the issue of fetal tissue donation may be new to some, the message overall is same as it ever was.

~~~

Also worth reading: James F. Childress on the Human Fetal Transplantation Research Panel of 1988. It was the report of this panel which provided the ethical argument in favor of research using fetal tissue.





You’ve got to fight for your right to party

11 09 2014

Smartphones everywhere and no video?

Please let there be video:

There’s some sort of unofficial birthday/Iron Dog-type/snowmachine party in Anchorage. A nice, mellow party, until the Palin’s show up. There’s beer, of course, and maybe other things. Which is all fine, but just about the time when some people might have had one too many, a Track Palin stumbles out of a stretch Hummer, and immediately spots an ex-boyfriend of Willow’s. Track isn’t happy with this guy, the story goes. There’s words, and more. The owner of the house gets involved, and he probably wished he hadn’t. At this point, he’s up against nearly the whole Palin tribe: Palin women screaming. Palin men thumping their chests. Word is that Bristol has a particularly strong right hook, which she employed repeatedly, and it’s something to hear when Sarah screams, “Don’t you know who I am!” And it was particularly wonderful when someone in the crowd screamed back, “This isn’t some damned Hillbilly reality show!” No, it’s what happens when the former First Family of Alaska comes knocking. As people were leaving in a cab, Track was seen on the street, shirtless, flipping people off, with Sarah right behind him, and Todd somewhere in the foreground, tending to his bloody nose.

I generally avoid the half-guv, but c’mon, this is a can of Pringles to me.

I should also note that I am rather-too fond of the notion of bar brawls, treating them, affectionately, as a kind of good-time-gone-wrong.

I’ve never actually been in a bar fight (that I can remember, at least), but I’d like to think that, at some point before I die, I’d be involved in a tavern-related mêlée.

If not, well, after my next eye surgery, I’ll explain the facial bruises the same way I explained the bruises of my last surgery: bar fight.





Don’t stop believin’

29 07 2013

So Mitt Romney apparently does not understand how video works.





Checking it twice

11 03 2011

Silly me—no, stupid me: for not considering that a James O’Keefe-sponsored NPR video just might possibly maybe could have been. . . edited.

That should have been my first response: Is this even real?

h/t to the commenters at TNC’s joint, especially &chik and his/her link to a critical look at the video at (goddess help me) Glenn Beck’s The Blaze.





Critters with British accents

18 01 2011

I’m a sucker for stuff like this:

Me, I like the prairie dog.

h/t The Daily Dish

 





It’s just possible. . .

23 12 2010

. . . that the parents among you will not find this amusing:

I, however, snorted with laughter at the end.

Then again, I grew up with jarts, lay in the middle of the street popping tar bubbles, hung on to a car door and skied in my penny-loafers, and thought drinking eleven shots and countless beers and mixed drinks for my 18th birthday was a good idea.

h/t Kelly O at Slog