The Humanitas Project


Living in the Biotech Century

News, Resources, and Commentary

July 21, 2005



Please support the Susan M. Torres Fund...


About Susan Torres...



susan torres

Susan Torres with son Peter, who is now age two.

“On May 7th, 2005, the day before Mothers’ Day, Susan M. (Rollins) Torres—a 26-year-old vaccine researcher at NIH; mother of a two-year-old son, Peter; graduate of the University of Dallas; and parishioner at St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia—collapsed. She was rushed to the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, where she has been diagnosed with stage four melanoma and is brain dead with no hope of recovery.


“Susan was 17 weeks pregnant at the time and although the doctors have given her no hope of survival, they are fighting to keep her unborn child alive until at least July 11 where he or she will have a viable chance at life.


“Her family is really starting to show signs of the strain this is causing; mentally, physically and financially. In an effort to escalate the awareness of their situation, and to help raise additional funds, friends of the Torres family have established The Susan M. Torres Fund to help defray the $1,500 a day ICU medical costs that insurance does not cover.


“Please help this family by sending a donation. Any amount is appreciated and it is tax deductible. Donations can be sent to:


The Susan M. Torres Fund

c/o Faith and Action

P.O. Box 34105

Washington, D.C. 20043-0105



Editor’s Note:  Additional information on Susan Torres and the Susan M. Torres Fund is available online.  Gifts may also be made at the web site through PayPal.  Several weeks ago, Justin Torres, Susan’s brother-in-law, wrote an insightful article, “A Mother’s Last Act Of Love To Save Her Unborn Child,” on the challenges faced by the Torres and Rollins families as they made medical decisions about caring for Susan and her baby.




Please forward this e-mail to anyone who might be interested in staying abreast of the rapidly changing developments in biotechnology and the related area of bioethics.  For more information on The Humanitas Project, contact Michael Poore, Executive Director, at 931-528-2408 or .  Or visit The Humanitas Project web site at



Closing a big case does not solve a big problem...


Plea Deal Reached in Steroid Scandal



“The founder of a company at the center of a steroid scandal involving top athletes has decided to plead guilty to steroid distribution and money laundering in a deal with federal prosecutors, his attorney said.


“Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, planned to ask a judge Friday for four months imprisonment and four months of home detention as part of the deal, according to a written statement from his attorney, Mary McNamara....


“Conte has been accused of distributing illegal drugs to more than 30 baseball, football and track and field stars. Also facing trial are Greg Anderson, weight trainer for Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants; BALCO vice president James Valente; and track coach Remi Korchemny....


“Some of the biggest names in sports, including Bonds, Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees and track star Marion Jones have been under a cloud of suspicion based on BALCO grand jury transcripts that were leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle. Bonds and Jones have denied steroid use, while Giambi all but said during a February news conference that he told a federal grand jury in 2003 he had used performance-enhancing drugs....”


AP/ — July 15, 2005


Leading the battle against sports doping...


The Awful Truth About Drugs in Sports

by Brian Alexander


Cheaters can’t be stopped. Testing costs a fortune. It’s shockingly easy to beat the system. The drug cops are perpetually playing catch-up. Says who? Drug-testing expert Don Catlin, that’s who. He’s the doping detective who helped break the BALCO scandal wide open—and the man who’s about to launch a radical new campaign to finally solve the problem.



Drugs in Sports

“The system has failed, and it will fail now”: Catlin inside his lab. (Jeff Minton)

“I keep waiting for Dr. Don Catlin to sound thrilled, or at least mildly pleased, about the mushrooming furor over the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports. Catlin, after all, helped break the now-infamous BALCO doping scandal from this very office, a small, dark, paper-strewn space inside the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory. The lab is one of the world’s top facilities for analyzing biological samples from athletes to detect the use of banned substances like anabolic steroids, the blood-oxygen booster erythropoetin (EPO), and scores of other prohibited drugs that aid performance.


“But Catlin—a tall, balding, 67-year-old M.D. with a handsomely craggy face—just frowns when I prod him. He sips from an old coffee mug and says the current media blitz reminds him of every other time doping has hit the news: There’s a lot of noise, and yet doping persists. He thinks about this a moment and then issues a bleak verdict on the drug-policing system in which he’s toiled for the past 25 years.


“‘People are following this old model—run ‘em down, chase ‘em, find ‘em, assume they are guilty, drag them into testing,’ he says. ‘And athletes still get away with stuff, and I maintain you can get away with stuff with everybody looking right at you....’


“Millions of dollars’ worth of high-tech gear is whirring all around him. Beyond these walls there’s an entire international bureaucracy devoted to catching cheaters. If Catlin is right, and all that won’t stop doping, the sports world has an even bigger credibility problem than most of us realize.


“And sports definitely has a problem, what with the recent congressional hearings about Major League Baseball’s steroid scandal and lingering suspicions that many events—from the Olympics to the Tour de France—are tainted by cheating. In the past two years alone, U.S. anti-doping authorities have uncovered 77 violations. Most recently, homegrown cycling fans suffered a major blow when Tour stalwart Tyler Hamilton was hit with a two-year suspension after allegedly transfusing another person’s blood into his body in an effort to boost endurance....”


Outside Magazine, July 2005


You can’t “ignore the enhancement products that are already realigning our concept of what it means to be human”...


You’re Not Good Enough!


Human evolution is now being engineered. Choose to enhance yourself or face inferiority.



“In the next few years, your child will come home from school in tears. He’ll say, once again, that he is unable to compete with the children who are brighter, better behaved and physically more capable than he is because their parents have bought them technological enhancements and you have not. What will you do?


“You could say, ‘That’s all right dear, we don’t care what other parents do with their children’s minds and bodies, we love you just the way you are.’




‘You could re-mortgage the house, again, to try to allow your child to keep up with the human enhancements that ever so rapidly are coming onto the market.’




‘You could try to get the enhanced kids thrown out of your school, widening the chasms that already will be separating “enhanced” humans from the “naturals” who could adopt such enhancements but, for aesthetic or political reasons, choose to abstain, like today’s vegetarians or fundamentalists.’


“What you and your children can’t do is ignore the enhancement products that are already realigning our concept of what it means to be human.


“We are at a turning point in history. For millenniums our technologies—fire, clothes, agriculture, cities, space travel—have been aimed outward at modifying our environment. Now, for the first time, our technologies are increasingly aimed inward—at altering our minds, memories, metabolisms, personalities and progeny....” — July 12, 2005


Exploring the neurobiology of our humanness...


Scientists Experiment With ‘Trust’ Hormone


U.S., Swiss Scientists Experiment With ‘Trust in a Bottle’ Hormone



“It sounds like the plot for another Batman sequel: The villain sprays Gotham City with a trust hormone and people rush to give him all their money. Banks, the stock market and even governments collapse.


“Farfetched? Swiss and American scientists demonstrate in new experiments how a squirt of the hormone oxytocin stimulates trusting behavior in humans, and they acknowledge that the possibility of abuse can’t be ignored.


“‘Of course, this finding could be misused,’ said Ernst Fehr of the University of Zurich, the senior researcher in the study, which appears in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature. ‘I don’t think we currently have such abuses. However, in the future it could happen.’


“Other scientists say the new research raises important questions about oxytocin’s potential as a therapy for conditions like autism, in which trust is diminished. Or, perhaps the hormone’s activity could be reduced to treat more rare diseases, like Williams syndrome, in which children approach strangers fearlessly.


“‘Might their high level of trust be due to excessive oxytocin release?’ asks University of Iowa neurologist Antonio Damasio, who reviewed the experiments for Nature. ‘Little is known about the neurobiology of trust, although the phenomenon is beginning to attract attention....’” — June 1, 2005


Bypassing the democratic process to fund embryonic stem cell research...


Gov Orders Stem Cell Research



“Skirting the Illinois Legislature, Gov. Blagojevich on Tuesday committed $10 million of taxpayer money to stem cell research.


“Last spring, stem cell research bills stalled in the Legislature. So Blagojevich established a stem cell research institute on his own authority, by signing an executive order.


“‘Stem cell research is a largely untapped medical resource that may lead to cures for painful diseases ranging from cancer to Parkinson’s,’ Blagojevich said.


“But critics cried foul.


“‘This is another underhanded act of arrogance and abuse of the General Assembly’s constitutional powers,’ said state Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), a potential 2006 candidate for governor.


“Blagojevich defended his tactics: ‘It’s the right thing to do, and however you get there is immaterial.’


“‘You’re killing innocent human life for the purposes of experimentation,’ said Robert Gilligan of the Catholic Conference of Illinois....”


Chicago Sun-Times — July 13, 2005


The endlessly complex ethics of embryonic stem cell research...


Panel: Use Caution in Stem Cell Study of Monkey Brains



China Photos

A rhesus monkey in China was used to test human plastic surgery tactics. In the U.S., human stem cell use in monkey brains has sparked moral concern.

“A panel of scientists, concerned about the remote possibility of instilling human traits in animals, has recommended caution in efforts to implant embryonic stem cells in the brains of monkeys and apes.


“In its recommendations, released in today’s Science, the panel raises the possibility that the human cells might transfer qualities to the animals and change the ‘moral’ dimension of experimenting on them.


“The recommendations follow National Academies of Science guidelines on stem cell research released in April.


“‘Our brains are ourselves, the brain is what makes us human,’ says panel member Hank Greely of Stanford University. ‘Appropriately, there is more concern about putting human cells into non-human brains.’


“Scientists hope to grow embryonic stem cells into replacement brain cells to treat neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease. Safety tests of these treatments would require first implanting the cells in animals, perhaps including primates. However, whether implanting such cells might raise the consciousness of the animals to a higher level, changing the ethics of experimentation, raises some awkward questions, Greely says.


“Only a few experiments have tried such implantation. In 2001, Harvard researchers transplanted human brain stem cells into the brains of fetal bonnet monkeys. The researchers found that the human stem cells formed into the appropriate brain cell varieties and became part of the primates’ brains. However, it wasn’t clear whether the human cells truly contributed to the monkeys’ brain activity....” — July 14, 2005


Conflicts in medical ethics can come from a clash of values...


Conflicts pitting doctors vs. patients—kin is Number 1 issue in medical ethics, Canadian experts say



“The biggest issue in medical ethics today is the growing occurrence of conflict between health care providers, their patients and patients’ families over treatment options, according to Canadian medical ethicists in a survey published today.


“Asked by the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, an international medical ethics think tank, to rank ‘the top 10 ethical challenges that Canadians may face in health care,’ 12 full-time ethicists at Toronto area hospitals cited as number one: disagreements over treatment decisions between health care professionals, patients and their families.


“Panelists say such disagreements typically involve health care professionals who recommend a treatment option (i.e. increased or decreased treatment) with which patients and their families disagree, and vice versa.


“In a paper published today in the peer-reviewed, open access UK journal BMC Medical Ethics, the researchers say that while such disagreements are most common in the intensive care unit, they occur in virtually every health care context, including palliative care, rehabilitation, mental health, surgery, internal medicine and family medicine.


“Disagreements range from withdrawing aggressive treatment from a terminally ill patient to a family physician refusing a patient’s request for antibiotics for a viral infection....  


“At the root of such conflicts is often a clash of value systems in Canada and elsewhere as nations become more culturally diverse....”


Medical News Today — June 28, 2005


Are the conservatives now confusing the stem cell issue?


Contentious Hearing Focuses on Stem Cells

by Rick Weiss


Senators Debate Merits of Different Bills



“The debate over embryonic stem cell research reached new heights of philosophical complexity yesterday as a Senate subcommittee wrestled with the question of whether human embryos intentionally endowed with fatal genetic flaws would still be too human to justify their mass production for experiments.


“The literal bout of soul-searching on Capitol Hill was prompted by opponents of embryo cell research, who hope to undermine support for a bill that would loosen President Bush’s four-year-old restrictions on the controversial field.


“Central to the newly emerging conservative strategy is an effort to encourage researchers to get the medically promising cells from alternative, albeit unproven, sources instead of from human embryos. Prime among those alternatives are embryos that might not pass muster as ‘human’ because they have been engineered to lack a gene crucial for development into a baby.


“The lobbying effort has resulted in the unusual situation of conservative opponents of embryo research, rather than scientists, proposing stem cell experiments that some ethicists say raise profoundly troubling issues.


“The approach would be tantamount to ‘deliberately creating and then destroying an impaired form of human life,’ Ronald M. Green, director of Dartmouth College’s Ethics Institute, told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on labor, health and human services and education.


“If the moral logic of the approach is left unchallenged, Green warned, society could find itself heading down a slippery slope in which scientists feel it is okay to produce babies without brains as sources of organs for transplantation....” — July 13, 2005


Debating the chemical abortions provided through university clinics...


Morning-After Pill May Be Banned From Wisconsin University Campuses



“As with campuses across the country, the most controversial prescription medication available to students at the University of Wisconsin is the morning-after pill.


“Wisconsin state Rep. Dan LeMahieu believes taxpayer-funded educational institutions have no business dispensing emergency contraception.


“‘I do believe that the Plan B morning-after pill can cause a chemical abortion,’ said the Republican lawmaker.


“LeMahieu sponsored legislation that would prohibit University of Wisconsin health clinics from advertising or distributing the Plan B pill, which is taken after sex to prevent pregnancy. The bill narrowly passed the state Assembly last month....” — July 17, 2005


Worth considering...


From What’s Wrong with Enhancement

by Michael J. Sandel



Michael Sandel

“I do not think that the main problem with enhancement and genetic engineering is that they undermine effort and erode human agency. The deeper danger is that they represent a kind of hyper-agency, a Promethean aspiration to remake nature, including human nature, to serve our purposes and satisfy our desires. The problem is not the drift to mechanism but the drive to mastery. And what the drive to mastery misses and may even destroy is an appreciation of the gifted character of human powers and achievements.


“To acknowledge the giftedness of life is to recognize that our talents and powers are not wholly our own doing, nor even fully ours, despite the efforts we expend to develop and to exercise them. It is also to recognize that not everything in the world is open to any use we may desire or devise. An appreciation of the giftedness of life constrains the Promethean project and conduces to a certain humility. It is, in part, a religious sensibility. But its resonance reaches beyond religion.


“It is difficult to account for what we admire about human activity and achievement without drawing upon some version of this idea.... The attempt to ‘improve’ athletic performance by pharmacological means is the ultimate expression of the ethic of willfulness, effort, and striving. The ethic of willfulness and the biotechnological powers it now enlists are both arrayed against the claims of giftedness.


“The moral problem with enhancement lies less in the perfection it seeks than in the human disposition it expresses and promotes. It might best be described as the hubris objection....”



What’s Wrong with Enhancement” was first presented to The President’s Council on Bioethics in December 2002. Michael J. Sandel, D.Phil., is Professor of Government at Harvard University and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.




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