Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 16, 2009
Even the lure of a cure cannot strip one of their humanity
My Glass is Half Full
As Barack Obama was being inaugurated as America’s 44th president, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) took no time to clear the path for the first American embryonic stem cell tests in humans. The FDA, of course, adamantly denied any connection with the timing of the inauguration.
For the better part of eight years, the Bush administration did not allow federal funding to go toward embryonic stem cell research. Other sources of stem cells were fine (and there are many) but President Bush took the principled ground because embryos die when their stem cells are extracted.
Barack Obama has no such qualms: I predict that under Obama’s presidency legal avenues will soon open for science to experiment on more than 40,000 frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. Unscrupulous scientists will have a heyday poking, prodding, cloning and mutating unwanted embryos all things unthinkable to previous generations.
At any rate, with the recent FDA approval, a California based bio-medical corporation called Geron will begin human tests using embryonic stem cells to try and repair spinal cord injuries.
Embryonic stem cell research comes with the grandest promises of cures for spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and a host of other conditions.
So far the promise has proved empty. More than 70 therapies have been developed for diseases and conditions using non-embryonic stem cell sources – such as stem cells taken from adult bone marrow, skin, umbilical cord blood and even cadavers.
Not one therapy has been developed anywhere in the world using embryonic stem cells. Many world-renowned embryologists and research scientists consider them too unstable for research or therapeutic purposes.
So why the fixation on embryonic stem cells when non-embryonic stem cells are not as problematic? Perhaps there is some underlying need to justify why life before birth is held in such low regard.
Maybe liberal agendas hope for some redeeming feature to an otherwise morally impoverished mentality that has resulted in millions of children dying before they saw the light of day. Abortion and the IVF process are two great evils of our age.
REPAIR MYELIN SHEATH
The Geron Corporation’s speculative human trials using embryonic stem cells to repair spinal cord injuries may have a direct impact on other conditions. The New York Times coverage of the Geron trials claimed, “The hope is that the injected cells will help repair the insulation, known as myelin, around nerve cells, restoring the ability of some nerve cells to carry signals.”
If this is true, and if the trials are successful, there will be implications for a disease like multiple sclerosis (MS). It is a disease of demylenation that has seriously crippled me.
If the Geron trials prove successful and an embryonic stem cell therapy for myelin repair is developed, you can bet an application for MS will be pursued.
Multiple sclerosis is the most common neurological disease among young adults in North America. It’s a crippler, not a killer, with an average age of onset being 20 to 40 years. It destroys people’s independence and careers just as their prime earning years as taxpaying contributors are about to begin.
More than 400,000 people have MS in the U.S., and over 50,000 in Canada. The financial implications of caring for these people for 30-40 years are staggering. The human and social costs are incalculable. There’s tremendous financial incentive for governments or corporations operating outside of moral constraints to fund ESC research to fund such research.
Here’s the problem for someone like me: I do operate with moral constraints and conscience. My Christianity demands it.
I cannot participate in, or take advantage of, therapies developed using embryonic stem cells. It is unacceptable for my life to get better at the expense of another. I would love to get out of my electric wheelchair and go swimming with my grandchildren or dance again with my wife.
Non-embryonic stem cell sources are fine. If, however, the therapy involves the killing of another human being in the form of an embryo then I must forego treatment, accept life in a wheelchair, and whatever lies in store for me with an aggressive and degenerative disease.
I know what it’s like to have my life devalued. (See my Jan. 26 column in the WCR, “Medical staff pronounced death sentences on the disabled.”) Why would I devalue another human life?
Is the allure of an embryonic stem cell therapy tempting?
Absolutely! But I must resist, and with God’s help, I will resist. It is better to lose the use of my body than lose my humanity.
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