Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Can We Talk About Stem Cell Research?

President Obama’s decision to reverse President Bush’s restrictions of federal funding of embryonic stem cell research was expected but is still noteworthy and controversial in that it is a reversal of the conservative policies that have been in place over the last 8 years.

So what is all the fuss about? Stem cell research holds a great deal of promise in the way of possible cures for a number of conditions as explained by the website
Tell Me About Stem Cells:

Stem cells are the foundation for every organ, tissue and cell in the human body. Stem cells may be able to repair or replace damaged tissue, thereby reversing diseases and injuries such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and blood diseases, to name a few.
But there are two main types of stem cells:

Embryonic (or Unlimited) stem cells are currently obtained with patients' permission from leftover three-day old embryos that would otherwise be discarded from fertility clinics. These embryos are created and exist entirely outside the body. Unlimited stem cells can develop into any kind of cell type or tissue in the body.

Adult (or Limited) stem cells are rare cells that can be found in only some developed organs or tissues. Limited stem cells have been successfully used for some time now in bone marrow transplants (either with bone marrow stem cells or umbilical cord blood stem cells) and skin and hair transplants.
According to most experts, the embryonic stem cells “offer significantly more promise in curing diseases and injuries.” But since extracting these embryonic stem cells requires destroying the embryos they come from, many of the conservative 'pro-life' people consider this to be immoral. And President Bush has supported this view in the form of vetoing legislation to allow public funding for embryonic stem cell research while insisting that adult stem cell research is our only moral choice.

The narrow thinking behind all of this is that citizens should not have to support programs they find immoral with their tax dollars. But what about those of us who believed the Iraq War to be immoral? Last I checked, nobody was offering any rebates for the part of our tax dollars used to finance this needless loss of human life.

And would these conservatives have the same viewpoint if they had an injury or disease that could possibly be treated by an advance in embryonic cell research? The example of
Nancy Reagan says maybe not.

(After her husband’s death due to Alzheimer’s disease) Reagan remained active in politics, particularly relating to stem cell research. Beginning in 2004, she favored what many consider to be the Democratic Party's position, and urged President George W. Bush to support federally funded embryonic stem cell research in the hope that this science could lead to a cure for Alzheimer's disease.
If indeed life is precious for those who oppose embryonic stem cell research, instead of just allowing those leftover embryos to simply be discarded, shouldn’t they be allowed to have a chance to someday save or enhance the lives of present and future generations? After all, are these lives any less precious?

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