The Humanitas Project


Living in the Biotech Century

News, Resources, and Commentary

February 28, 2007



“Those limbs are moving. That heart is beating. You don’t have to say anything....”


The Grassroots Abortion War

by Nancy Gibbs




“The pregnancy-center clinic, with its new ultrasound machine, has been open only since December, but already the staff can count the women who came in considering an abortion and changed their minds: five women converted, six lives saved, they declare, since one was carrying twins. ‘They connected,’ nurse Joyce Wilson says, recalling the reaction of the women who saw the filmy image of their fetus onscreen. ‘They bonded. You could just see it. One girl got off the table and said, “That’s my baby.”’


“‘Another got up,’ Deborah Wood says, ‘and said, “This changes everything.”’


“Wood is the CEO of Asheville Pregnancy Support Services in Asheville, North Carolina, one of the thousands of crisis pregnancy centers in the U.S. that are working to end abortion. Hers is the new face of an old movement: kind, calm, nonjudgmental, a special-forces soldier in the abortion wars who is fighting her battles one conscience at a time. Her center helps women navigate the social-service bureaucracy, sign up for Medicaid and begin prenatal care. She helps pregnant girls find emergency housing if their parents threaten to throw them out. Free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds are just the latest service.


“‘They’ve been fed these lies, that it’s just a bunch of cells that’s not worth anything,’ Wilson says....”


TIME – February 15, 2007




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“You already know you love this baby anyway, and you know that nothing is going to change that.”


Against All Odds



The feet of Amillia Taylor, born after 22 weeks in the womb

The feet of Amillia Taylor, born in Miami after just 22 weeks in the womb. Photo: Baptist Health South/Getty

Amillia Taylor shouldn’t be alive. She was born at less than 22 weeks—in the US, where babies aren’t considered ‘viable’ until 23 weeks. But her desperate mother lied to doctors about how far gone she was, and Amillia is now the most premature baby to have ever survived. Aida Edemariam reports on her extraordinary story and asks: should we be saving such tiny babies?


“There is something otherworldly about the picture that appeared around the world yesterday: two tiny brown-pink feet, almost translucent, poking through an adult’s fingers. You had to look twice to be sure that they were indeed feet.


“They belong to Amillia Taylor, who was born in Miami last October, 21 weeks and six days after conception. She weighed less than 10oz at birth - not even as much as two ordinary bars of soap—and she was just 9½ inches long. Amillia, who is expected to be discharged from hospital in the next couple of days, is officially the most premature baby ever to have survived.


“Amillia’s parents, understandably, are immensely pleased, not least because ‘She’s like a real baby now,’ as her mother, 37-year-old teacher Sonja Taylor, told the Miami Herald. ‘Now I can feel her when I hold her.’ The doctors involved, having initially been prepared to break the news of the baby’s death to parents who had already been through a gruelling IVF programme and scare after scare during pregnancy, are expressing informed incredulity. ‘This is not the norm,’ says neonatologist Dr William Smalling. ‘Really, greatly, most of these babies don’t survive ... This is a miracle.’ Even more surprisingly, apart from some expected respiratory issues, Amillia appears to be doing well: the prognosis is excellent....”


The Guardian – February 21, 2007


Challenging conventional wisdom about the cause and treatment of cancer...


Cheap, ‘Safe’ Drug Kills Most Cancers

by Andy Coghlan



“It sounds almost too good to be true: a cheap and simple drug that kills almost all cancers by switching off their ‘immortality’. The drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), has already been used for years to treat rare metabolic disorders and so is known to be relatively safe. It also has no patent, meaning it could be manufactured for a fraction of the cost of newly developed drugs.


“Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and his colleagues tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body and found that it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but not healthy cells. Tumours in rats deliberately infected with human cancer also shrank drastically when they were fed DCA-laced water for several weeks....” – January 20, 2007


New Scientist has received an unprecedented amount of interest in this story from readers. If you would like up-to-date information on any plans for clinical trials of DCA in patients with cancer, or would like to donate towards a fund for such trials, please visit the site set up by the University of Alberta and the Alberta Cancer Board. We will also follow events closely and will report any progress as it happens.”


After two weeks, a bioengineered tooth...


Toothless Mice Can Eat Again



“Teeth that were created in a lab dish from single cells have for the first time replaced natural teeth in mice, researchers report....


“Writing online in the journal Nature Methods, the researchers describe how they first grew each cell type separately to make larger numbers of them.


“They then injected them into a drop of the sticky protein collagen.


“The tooth germ grew into a tiny tooth about 1.3 millimetres long. The researchers then extracted the incisor from an eight-week-old adult mouse and inserted the bioengineered tooth....”


Agençe France-Presse/ABC Science Online – February 19, 2007


An important discovery that may also be used eugenically to screen out embryos and foetuses that are genetic carriers of autism...


Canadian Breakthrough Offers Hope on Autism


Project makes possible DNA test to identify children most likely at risk to condition



Dr. Stephen Scherer, left, and Dr. Peter Szatmari led an international project to discover the genetic architecture underlying autism susceptibility. Hospital for Sick Children

Dr. Stephen Scherer, left, and Dr. Peter Szatmari led an international project to discover the genetic architecture underlying autism susceptibility. (Hospital for Sick Children)

“A massive international effort led by Canadian scientists has homed in on the genes behind autism—a breakthrough that could revolutionize how the mysterious and surprisingly common condition is both detected and treated.


“Touting it as the most significant advance in the field in 30 years, researchers say the landmark project has put within reach a DNA test to identify children with autism early enough to counter the condition’s worst effects.


“‘I don’t think it’s inconceivable that we’re going to be able to prevent autism down the road,’ said study leader Peter Szatmari, director of the Offord Centre for Child Studies at McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton. ‘The clinical implications of this discovery are unprecedented.’


“Doctors currently rely on psychological tests to diagnose autism spectrum disorders in children at age 2 or 3. But a DNA test could identify those affected as babies, or perhaps even before they are born....”


Globe and Mail – February 19, 2007


Expanding human trials for the bionic eye...


Trials for ‘Bionic’ Eye Implants

by Jonathan Fildes



Eyechip (USC)

A receiver under the eye surface passes the signals back to the chip

“A bionic eye implant that could help restore the sight of millions of blind people could be available to patients within two years.


“US researchers have been given the go-ahead to implant the prototype device in 50 to 75 patients.


“The Argus II system uses a spectacle-mounted camera to feed visual information to electrodes in the eye.


“Patients who tested less-advanced versions of the retinal implant were able to see light, shapes and movement....


“The new devices work by implanting an array of tiny electrodes into the back of the retina....”


BBC NEWS – February 16, 2007


A rebellion against heavy-handed politics and back-door politicking...


Merck Suspends Lobbying for Vaccine


Merck Suspends Lobbying for Cervical Cancer Vaccine Mandate



“Pediatricians, gynecologists and even health insurers all call Gardasil, the first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, a big medical advance.


“But medical groups, politicians and parents began rebelling after disclosure of a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign by Gardasil’s maker, Merck & Co., to get state legislatures to require 11- and 12-year-old girls to get the three-dose vaccine as a requirement for school attendance.


“Some parents’ groups and doctors particularly objected because the vaccine protects against a sexually transmitted disease, human papilloma virus, which causes cervical cancer. Vaccines mandated for school attendance usually are for diseases easily spread through casual contact, such as measles and mumps.


“Bowing to pressure, Merck said Tuesday that it is immediately suspending its controversial campaign, which it had funded through a third party....”


ABC News/The Associated Press – February 22, 2007





Questions and more questions about Merck’s “marketing strategy”...


Conspiracy Abound: Vaccine Meeting and Merck Donation Coincide


One day following Merck’s announcement that it will suspend its lobbying campaign to persuade states to mandate girls get the company’s HPV vaccine against cervical cancer, a new controversy has surfaced.




“The Associated Press (AP) has obtained documents that show Texas governor Rick Perry’s chief of staff met with key aides about the vaccine the same day Merck donated money to his campaign.


“Earlier this month, Texas became the first state to require sixth grade girls receive the vaccine that fights against the human papillomavirus when Perry issued an executive order.


“A calendar obtained by the AP for chief of staff Deirdre Delisi shows she met with with the governor’s budget director and members of his office for an ‘HPV Vaccine for Children Briefing’ on October 16, the same day Merck’s political action committee donated $5,000 to Gov. Perry....”


Digital Journal – February 21, 2007


The moral chaos that is Europe...


Fears Over Cyprus Baby Cash Plan



“A proposal to give a huge cash bonus to Cypriot women who have large families could in fact lead to an ‘epidemic’ of abortions, an MP has warned.


“The government has proposed a £23,000 (34,000 euro) bonus to mothers who have three or more children.


“Maria Kyriacou says several pregnant women have contacted her to find out when the scheme is likely to start.


“Women expecting a third child are considering aborting, and trying again once the payments are active, she said....”


BBC NEWS – February 26, 2007


Public policy by stealth...


Catholic Nursing Homes to Be Forced to Permit Assisted Suicide

by Wesley J. Smith



“‘Choice’ my foot: If the new bill to legalize assisted suicide in California (A.B. 374) becomes law, Catholic nursing homes will be legally required to permit assisted suicide to be committed within their premises, even though doing so would be a profound violation of Catholic moral teaching. In-patient hospice facilities would be similarly coerced, despite assisted suicide being a direct affront to the hospice philosophy and the medical standards under which programs operate. Other California medical facilities and group homes could also be forced to comply. Only acute-care hospitals escape the proposed tyrannical duty to cooperate in ending patients’ lives.


“We shouldn’t be surprised. Assisted-suicide advocates are a voracious lot. They claim that their policy goals are modest, a mere tweaking, if you will, of medical ethics and protocols. Being zealots, however, they often try to sneak coercive provisions into their various legalization proposals. A.B. 374 is patterned generally after the law in Oregon, though the coercion about which I write is not found in the current Oregon law or a concurrently introduced assisted-suicide legalization bill in Vermont, and is an attempt to force most medical and nursing facilities to cooperate in the assisted-suicide regime....”


On the Square, the blog of First Things – February 26, 2007


Worth considering...


From Communism Today

by Peter Augustine Lawler



“The name rightly given to a specifically modern lie is an ideology. An ideology is a form of popular science, and so not a form of real science. It is a comprehensive and easy-to-understand account of all that exists. Ideologies are the dogmas that fill the vacuum created by the discrediting of religious dogma. They are, in fact, usually meant to be replacements for Christianity’s central tenets. But they never really free themselves from Christianity altogether: The future paradise promised by the personal God of the Bible, we are told, can be achieved in a more human—but still more impersonal—way....


“All ideologies, in fact, oppose the foundational Christian claim...that human beings are alienated by their natures. We experience ourselves as to some extent ‘displaced persons,’ as somewhat homeless, as aliens or pilgrims in this world. The very existence of human beings—the very existence of myself as a self-conscious being—is a mystery that eludes systematic explanation. My self-consciousness—and so my openness to the truth about all things—cannot be explained by any ideology: Even Marx could not account for his own love of the truth or his own love of freedom—both of which were quite real—through his materialistic, systematic account of history....


“...No modern ideology can free us from religion—which will be around as long as human beings, unlike the other animals, are alienated by their natures. Nor can ideology free us from the state, because human beings will always remain free, proud, and perverse enough to require and demand to be governed. The resources human beings have been given to live well as self-conscious mortals are love, virtue, and spiritual life, and the main effect of modern ideology has been to deprive human beings of the words and self-understanding required to see this truth. Ideologies have kept us from seeing the truth about both our greatness and our misery, which is the truth about our dignity....”



Peter Augustine Lawler is Dana Professor and Chair of the Department of Government and International Studies at Berry College.  He is also a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.  This excerpt is from “Communism Today,” the first chapter of Stuck with Virtue:  The American Individual and Our Biotechnological Future.




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Copyright © 2007