*WARNING* Politically charged waters ahead. Swim at your own risk.
If you haven’t heard about the recent brouhaha regarding Rush Limbaugh and actor Michael J. Fox, you haven’t been watching the news. Many are calling Limbaugh insensitive (and much worse) after comments he made accusing the actor of exploiting his Parkinson’s disease in a series of political ads in which Fox endorses various Democrats who are running for congress. The issue? The opponents of these candidates are also opposed to government-funded fetal stem cell research, a branch of science that promises cures and treatments for everything from paralysis to Fox’s Parkinson’s, the symptoms of which are the very visible focus of the political commercials in question.
I admit that Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh make me wince at times with their ungentle way of putting things. But I often finding myself in agreement with their ideas–in this case, the point that Coulter has made before and that I believe Rush is attempting to convey, as well: that “victimhood” should not set someone’s political ideology above reproach or challenge in the public arena.
Michael J. Fox is on those commercials for a reason–to elicit pity, and, subsequently, emotionally charged votes against anyone who might stand in the way of “medical progress” for him and others suffering from various diseases.
It works, to a point. I feel a great deal of pity for the suffering that Mr. Fox, the Reeves family, and others have gone through as they or their loved ones are ravaged by disease. But I don’t believe their suffering justifies the destruction of another human life to improve, or even save, their own.
A few points:
One of the candidates that Michael J. Fox is endorsing in these commercials, Ben Cardin, actually voted against a measure to fund promising stem cell research that wouldn’t require the destruction of embryos. I guess it just didn’t pack the political punch of fetal stem cell issues, which decidedly pit the more pro-life sensibilities of the right against the left, which largely supports this research. These attempts to paint those opposed to stem cell research as uncaring and calloused to human pain and suffering may be politically expedient, but they do a lot of damage to the public trust.
Contrary to the impression often given in debates on this issue, fetal stem cell research is not illegal. The only point in contention here is whether or not tax dollars will be spent to develop it. Most medical research is funded privately, with drug companies and investment minded individuals pouring large amounts of money into promising research candidates. If fetal stem cell research is the panacea the left would like us to believe, why is the market discarding its possibilities?
The truth is that embryonic stem cell research has yet to yield even one useful therapeutic application. In contrast, many positive, concrete results have been achieved in the exploration of stem cell lines from adults, harvested without any harm at all to the subject.
If you’d like some examples, here are a few:
“Researchers at Harvard Medical School say adult stem cells may eliminate the need for embryonic ones. The researchers experienced a permanent reversal of Type 1 diabetes in mice by killing the cells responsible for the diabetes. The animals’ adult stem cells took over and regenerated missing cells needed to produce insulin and eliminate the disease. The results hold promise for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus and more than 50 other ailments.
At the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, a man with a rare, potentially fatal skin disorder that was so severe that he could no longer eat, is now symptom-free after receiving a transplant of his own adult stem cells.
Doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago extracted the adult stem cells from the blood of two Crohn’s patients and successfully used them to rebuild their faulty immune systems.
Dr. Edward Holland of the Northern Kentucky Eye Laser Center in the greater Cincinnati metropolitan area is using adult stem cell transplants as part of a treatment to dramatically improve the eyesight of his patients.
New research in the UK on rats indicates that transplants of adult stem cells can help stroke victims regain movement, senses and understanding. They also show that the adult cells were more effective than cells from aborted babies.The Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York came to similar conclusions.
A study by the Institute for Stem Cell Research in Milan, Italy showed that certain cells from the brains of adult rats can be used to generate muscular tissue.
Researchers at the University of South Florida in Tampa have found that adult stem cells from the umbilical cord blood may be able to help repair damaged brain tissue after a stroke.
Scientists at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ have found that bone marrow cells may be converted into replacement nerve cells, able to treat brain and nerve injuries. Dr. Ira Black and his team were able to convert 80% of the bone marrow cells into nerve cells.”*
And on the subject of funding, this quote is from Forbes magazine: “Of the 15 US biotech companies solely devoted to developing cures using stem cells, only two focus on embryos. Embryo stem cell research is at the drawing-board stage – not for lack of funds but for lack of promising research to finance. Venture capitalists have no agenda beyond making money; if they see embryo projects that are likely to bear fruit over the next five to seven years – the usual VC time horizon – they will fund them. That the market is speaking so loudly against embryo stem cell research probably explains why embryo researchers are so eager to reverse the ban on government funding.”
I don’t condone any research or treatment that destroys a human life, regardless of its degree of success. But even if you put ethics aside, as many would like to do, it’s clear that the potential of fetal stem cell research has been greatly exaggerated by those who would use it as a wedge to attain political power for themselves.
If you’re interested in reading more on the technical aspects of stem cell research, here is an excellent article from 21st Century Science and Technology Magazine.
*information collected by Life Issues Institute, Inc.
**Does this post sound familiar? It began as a comment I wrote in reply to a Wild Card thread on Huckleberries Online.