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Polarized On Stem-Cell Research


Right now we are standing at the intersection of science, politics, economics, and patients ("Repairing the engines of life," Cover Story, May 24). There are very real risks and rewards for all four, and Arlene Weintraub's thorough reportage brought this to the forefront. Being healthy is not a political issue, nor should it ever become one.

My heart goes out to the Ames family. They are faced not only with a devastating diagnosis but also the frustration of what Mr. David Ames refers to as "a fast clock" and a government that has decided to restrict research on treatments that could be potentially life-extending or life-saving for ALS sufferers.

Rachel Pine

New York

When a society begins to rationalize that it is O.K. to cannibalize its own for the sake of other more valuable lives, a red flag should go up. The issue of banning research on human embryos is not a religious issue. It is first and foremost a moral issue. Furthermore, the individuals whose rights we are infringing upon can never hope to fight or make their plight known. They are hidden from our view. That only makes it that much easier for us to exploit them.

Patricia Magaldi

Litchfield, Conn.

I am a Catholic with a conservative voting record, but the policy of denying stem-cell research its National Institutes of Health funding is misguided and unfortunate. As it is always prudent to avoid political and religious topics in group discussion, when religion (or more specifically, the existence of a caring higher power) is raised, the most common question by those who doubt is this: If there is a higher power, why is there so much suffering? We've all heard the "mysterious ways" answers to this conundrum. Perhaps regenerative healing through stem cells is our mysterious solution.

Mike Ryan

Sewell, N.J.

Embryonic stem cells are derived from five-day-old embryos created through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). They are never implanted and as a result cannot develop into fetuses. When couples undergo IVF in hopes of conceiving a child, the procedure nearly always creates more embryos than will be used. The leftover embryos are frozen for future reproductive attempts or they are voluntarily donated by the couple for research.

Right now, an estimated 400,000 such embryos are in frozen storage in the U.S. alone, and virtually all of them will ultimately be discarded. Throwing away these IVF embryos would be a tragic waste of an irreplaceable resource that could lead to cures and treatments for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, which affect the lives of more than 100 million Americans.

William Ahearn

Vice-President

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

New York

The inferences you draw in your article about the acquittals of Qwest executives in an accounting fraud case ("Are Qwest honchos off the hook?" Legal Affairs, May 24) are off the mark. The jury after all rejected the government's charges -- a result which hardly supports the idea that former CEO Joseph P. Nacchio might have been involved in some other "fraud."

Certainly the mere fact that Qwest restated its financials does not mean something "criminal" or improper occurred. Management and the Qwest board decided to restate the financials based on the advice of new auditors, who applied complex accounting rules for very complicated transactions differently from the way Qwest's auditors did during Mr. Nacchio's tenure. To equate that difference of opinion with intentional misrepresentation of the company's finances by Mr. Nacchio or anyone else is an unfair and unfounded interpretation of events.

In fact, Qwest's prior auditors disagree with the restatements and stand by their past accounting. Market forces, more than accounting, account for Qwest's loss of share value. In the final analysis, surely one could conclude that the reason no evidence was presented in this long and unsuccessful prosecution linking Nacchio to any wrongdoing is that he did nothing wrong, let alone anything criminal.

Charles A. Stillman

Stillman & Friedman

New York

Editor's Note: The writer is the attorney for Joseph P. Nacchio.

Certainly, Saddam Hussein was a bloodthirsty dictator who caused suffering throughout his country. But there are a multitude of such dictators around the world ("Iraq: How to repair America's moral authority," Editorials, May 24). Had America systematically attacked these states, one might view the actions in Iraq as legitimate. As matters stand, no one believes that the preservation of human rights is the driving force of America's foreign policy.

If the U.S. is ever to regain its moral authority, it needs to act globally. First, maintain basic human rights of the prisoners in Guant?namo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, whether the Geneva Convention applies or not. Second, apologize for the enormous suffering caused by actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and recognize the fact that significant mistakes were made. At the same time, emphasize the new rights that have been gained by every citizen: freedom of speech, protection from torture, freedom of religion. Third, with the support of the U.N. and neighboring Muslim countries, make the exit plan clear and ensure that systems are in place to avoid the onset of a civil war.

There is much more at stake than moral authority. In the hell that is Iraq today, one thing is sure to flourish: terrorists who want to destroy America and everything it stands for. They must be stopped before it is too late.

Dimitri Galani

Athens


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