By Jennifer Lahl, CBC President
Each year I have the honor of picking the top winners and losers in the world of bioethics. Some years are easier than others. Sometimes it is easy to find losers but more difficult to pick winners. But this year the deck was pretty even. Maybe one year there will be a year when there are no losers. But I’m not holding my breath!
Olivia Pratten: Born via anonymous sperm donation, Olivia took on and successfully changed Canadian Law, banning anonymous egg and sperm donation. Of course, this has been immediately challenged. We will continue watching this case.
Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine: This institute is making great progress in adult stem cell research with advances such as growing organs in petri dishes, using the patient’s own stem cells, engineering heart valves, and advances in treating diabetes by engineering pancreatic beta cells from amniotic fluid.
The Vatican: Putting their money where their mouth is, the Vatican has partnered with NeoStem, “To foster the highest levels of scientific research on Adult Stem Cells and to explore the cultural, ethical, and human implications of their use.” Unlike Geron Corporation (a loser, below), the best way forward, always, is ethical scientific progress.
Eggsploitation: Tooting our horn, Eggsploitation won Best Documentary at the 2011 California Independent Film Festival, has been sold into over 20 countries, and is currently being translated into Italian. It continues to educate young women who are being targeted with large sums of money to engage is risky behavior.
Geron: In February of 2009, Geron Corporation enthusiastically announced the FDA’s approval of their Phase 1 clinical trial, injecting human embryonic stem cells into patients with new spinal cord injuries. Less than 12 months later, Geron announced it was abandoning the field due to “capital scarcity and uncertain economic conditions.” Truth is, human embryonic stem cell research is ethically problematic and insiders say treatments, if ever, are a long way off.
Euthanasia Coaster: A hypothetical (for now) ride that boasts: “The three-minute ride involves a long, slow, climb — nearly a third of a mile long — that lifts one up to a height of more than 1,600 feet, followed by a massive fall and seven strategically sized and placed loops. The final descent and series of loops take all of one minute. But the gravitational force — 10 Gs — from the spinning loops at 223 miles per hour in that single minute is lethal.” Turning a roller coaster into literally the final ride of your life is a real loser.
Planet Hospital: Advancing the phenomenon of outsourcing pregnancy as just another job, Planet Hospital goes so far as to offer the “India Bundle,” an ‘affordable’ package deal that gives would-be parents an egg donor, four surrogates for four embryo transfers, room and board for the surrogate during the pregnancy, and transportation services for the parents to go to India and pick up the baby.
Theresa Erickson: An internationally renowned surrogacy lawyer in Southern California, Erickson pled guilty to being a co-conspirator in a three-ring baby-selling scheme. Erickson’s ring included Maryland based attorney, Hilary Neiman. Neiman was sentenced to five months in federal prison and seven months to home confinement. Erickson is scheduled to be sentenced in late January.