Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Human Rights at Risk with Public Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

By Becky A. McClain

As an embryonic stem cell scientist and an injured worker, I would caution the public about the recent political movement to reverse the Dickey Amendment and, thereby, legalize federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Matter a fact, the public should be alarmed.


Disregard for human rights issues, which rise up and above the “religious right” concerns, have already adversely impacted the public. And, unfortunately, more adversities toward the public are on their way as embryonic stem cell research advances. These critical issues deserve thoughtful attention before a reversal of the Dickey Amendment should be even considered.

I should know.

I was denied directed medical care for exposures from dangerous embryonic stem technologies incurred while at work. Unbelievably, I was denied under the premise that “trade secrets” supersede a worker’s right to specific exposure information.

Really? Yes, really.

Welcome to the embryonic stem cell world, a world of legal quagmire where human rights and public rights are slated toward the chopping block. Chop! Chop! One down for worker’s rights.

Public Beware. If the embryonic stem community does not care about worker safety and worker rights, you had better believe they also do not care about public rights or public safety either.

In fact, the public has been fooled. The embryonic stem cell research industry is far from the altruistic persona it has painted itself to be. Rather, embryonic stem cell research is about big money, first and foremost. It is about securing a position of power within the economic and legal mainstream of the American public. That is why biotech worker’s rights regarding safety and healthcare have been denied. That is why, unfortunately, the public’s right will be denied too.

And the media has not helped. The media has purposely turned the human embryonic stem cell debate into a polarized “religion versus science” contest.

But issues lying in-between those two polarities contain much of the tainted meat that can negatively impact the public toward human rights. These concerns get no media attention. The public remains ignorant. In fact, the public lacks an understanding of the legal, social and cultural effects that could negatively impact them as advanced technologies move forward.

The “religious right” issue is only one of many concerns surrounding the controversial funding of human embryos for research. But it is not, necessarily, the most important.

For example, public health and safety is yet another concern in this unregulated research. But the public remains clueless. The public is not even aware that human embryos are being used for biological warfare research purposes in the United States .

The public is also not aware that other dangerous embryonic stem cell technologies are being developed in their neighborhood universities and biotech companies without adequate biocontainment measures, regulations or oversight. The public is not aware of how this unregulated and dangerous research can make them sick. Real sick.

And that’s not all. Human rights, scientific integrity, public transparency, patent issues, public rights, women’s rights, egg donations, workers rights, and legal rights, along with public health and safety are all important issues that have been left out of the human embryonic stem cell debate.

Under the current lack of public and human right protections, Americans should be on guard regarding allowing unfettered public funding toward human embryonic stem cell research.

It is in the public’s best interest to protect itself. And I assure you, as an embryonic stem cell researcher and injured worker, who has seen the dark side of the embryonic stem cell industry and who has personally experienced its immense power to thwart human rights, reversing the Dickey Amendment is far from being in the public’s interest.

Until the legal, social and cultural effects of human embryonic stem cell research can be brought to light, with more meaningful discussions to protect the rights and interests of the American people, the public should demand upholding the Dickey Amendment. The public should not advocate for public funding toward human embryonic stem cell research.

Becky McClain is an injured biotechnology worker who while working as a molecular biologist at Pfizer, Groton , became ill after she incurred exposures to dangerous genetically engineered viruses used in an embryonic stem cell lab. She recently won a freedom of speech and whistleblower claim in federal court against Pfizer which involved her public health and safety claims.

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