On Wednesday evening I broke the story that Dr. Ben Carson, GOP hopeful, who has claimed fetal tissue research had “under delivered” had himself participated in fetal tissue research.
His responses have been nonsensical at best and hypocritical at worst:
Today I was accused by the press as having done research on fetal tissue. It simply is not true… My only involvement in this study was supplying tumors that I had removed from my patients. Those tissue samples were compared to other tissue samples under a microscope. Pathologists do this work to gain clues about tumors.
I, nor any of the doctors involved with this study, had anything to do with abortion or what Planned Parenthood has been doing. Research hospitals across the country have microscope slides of all kinds of tissue to compare and contrast. The fetal tissue that was viewed in this study by others was not collected for this study.
This response indicates that Ben Carson apparently doesn’t understand research or how tissue gets to a pathology lab or for that matter what I wrote. Or he is just saying anything to appease the religious right. I didn’t say he did the abortion, I said he put his name on a paper that compared normal fetal brain tissue with tissue from colloid cysts and opined that was rather odd considering his views on how fetal tissue research is under whelming.
He’s a neurosurgeon, of course he didn’t collect the fetal tissue. He says he supplied the colloid cysts. I’m totally fine with that part of his response, but it is still hypocritical to talk about fetal research being underwhelming when you yourself have your name on a paper that used “two fetuses aborted in the ninth and 17th week.”
Dr. Carson seems to think that if he A) didn’t order or personally do the abortion and B) didn’t get his hands dirty in the pathology lab and C) if the tissue was already there then his team wanted to use it that he gets a free pass on being involved with abortion. I guess there are abortion degrees f separation.
Carson’s responses are just double speak. How exactly does he think normal fetal tissue made it to his pathology lab? Does he mean it was okay for him to profit off of fetal tissue research, but when anyone else tries to do valuable things (like a polio vaccine, something I guess Ben Carson feels has under delivered) they are wrong and evil?
Ben Carson told the Washington Post it was about “intent,” but since no one has an abortion for the purposes of donating fetal tissue and no financial profit exists, does he mean that only Ben Carson is pure enough of heart to do the right thing with fetal tissue?
Carson also said, “…if you’re killing babies and taking the tissue, that’s very different thing than taking a dead specimen and keeping record of it.” No actually, it’s not. It doesn’t matter if a fetus was aborted 20 years ago or 2 years ago, it was still aborted. Unless if he means his paper used tissue from spontaneous abortions. If so, why not just say that? Then again, you can’t study normal with spontaneous abortions as > 60% in the first trimester have chromosomal abnormalities. Spontaneous abortions are by definition abnormal which is why they can’t be used when you need normal tissue. Also, research papers usually qualify abortion with “spontaneous” if that is what they mean. Regardless, his responses all point to the tissue being from an abortion, not miscarriage because he is so obsessed with the aspect of handling the tissue.
He told Heidi Harris that he was “the archeologist who found it” (meaning the tissue), but the tissue wasn’t put in the tissue bank by an ancient civilization or aliens. Does he mean if someone else does the dirty work it’s okay? That there are degrees of separation when it comes to abortion and that it is okay his research profited from using tissue because it was old?
Carson has also made derogatory comments about Planned Parenthood “harvesting” fetal parts. How exactly does he think normal fetal brain tissue was available for him to use? At some point it had to be dissected.
On Ralston live (regarding fetal tissue research he said “I believe that people do it, I’m not going to engage in it myself.”
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) August 17, 2015
He stuck to his guns that because he didn’t touch the fetal tissue he is somehow pure and reinforced his generally underwhelmed view of fetal tissue research, “Let me put it this way- important discoveries in medicine can be carried out using other types of tissue as well.”
Yes, Dr, Carson, not all research needs fetal tissue but some does.
As for his assertion that studying a normal fetus was never needed for his medical training? We all study embryology in medical school and at some point someone had to look at fetal tissue to figure things out. I’m not saying this is done daily in medical schools, but along the way when anatomists and embryologists and researchers had access to normal fetal tissue and they used it and that has informed our understanding of embryonic and fetal development and of congenital abnormalities and the reproductive system and, well, so much that it fills entire courses in medical schools. In addition, we have all collectively benefitted from vaccines developed originally in fetal tissue. As he is a neurosurgeon one would have expected Ben Carson to be particularly impressed by a vaccine that prevents paralysis.
Ben Carson can continue to try and spin it, but each response is stranger than the last and still doesn’t change the fact that when you put your name on a paper you have engaged in that research and are signing off on the whole thing from hypothesis to materials and methods through to conclusions. Obviously every person doesn’t do every step. I have a statistician for my research and she obviously doesn’t see the patients, just like I don’t have a clue if we need to use chi-square or an odds ration, but we both did the research.
The truth is fetal tissue research informs us greatly and has benefited many. Fetal tissue research was part of developing the polio vaccine and holds great promise for other areas as well. If researchers didn’t think it was useful they wouldn’t use it, not only because scientists like to move on from things that are not needed or don’t work but also because of the expense and because of threats that come from a fractious minority.
If buffalo green monkey cells worked for everything that is what everyone would use. As a doctor Ben Carson should know that more than anyone, which is why is responses are so utterly sad and disappointing.