Stem Cell Research
Embryonic stem cell research has the potential to help more than 100 million Americans who have life-threatening diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and many others (Feinstein, 2004).
However, the limits on the lines of stem cells available for federal funding has strictly limited researchers' ability to help treat these diseases and conditions (Feinstein, 2004). Since the policy was announced in 2001, the number of viable embryonic stem cell lines available to researchers who receive federal funding has drastically been reduced from 78 to 19.
Scientists believe that stem cell research can be used to create therapies and cures for a wide range of medical conditions, perhaps allowing a doctor to remove skin from a patient, grow a genetically identical organ, and transplant it back in (Fox, 2005). Or even enable a doctor to use the technology to create banks of tissues, organs or cells for near-perfect matches.
A wide variety of groups and individuals support the use of human embryos for stem-cell research. Celebrities Mary Tyler Moore, and Michael J. Fox are amongst the millions of Americans who may benefit from stem cell-based therapies.
Michael J. Fox was a major TV star at 20, a movie star at 25, and a tragedy at 30, when he announced that he was battling Parkinson's disease. Superman star Christopher Reeve, who lobbied for medical research after being paralyzed in a fall nine years ago, died recently at the age of 52. Both celebrities have been known advocates of stem cell research, a controversial issue since President George W. Bush limited its funding on ethical grounds.
Stem cells are "blank" cells that have the potential to form any kind of tissue in the body. Scientists believe that harnessing the power of those cells may lead to treatments or cures for many diseases (Medical health Encyclopedia, 2005). However, federal funding restrictions are severely limiting research in this field.
For example, when it comes to Parkinson's disease, "the science is way ahead of the money," says Michael J. Fox. Though he is "just" an actor, Fox knows as much about the state of brain disease research as many neuroscientists. He makes it his business now that one of his major pursuits is curing Parkinson's.
Michael J. Fox, a man with a personal interest in finding cures, thinks it's "nuts" to restrict stem cell research when it has so much potential to help or cure millions of people. In his words, "Those of us with Parkinson's and other degenerative diseases see it as so self-defeating. We don't want to clone a Frankenstein or Uncle Charlie so we can play poker with him again. We just want to save lives." The man has a point. Would President Bush be so quick to ban research if his own daughter could be cured? Would any of us?
Throughout his life, Reeve pressured Congress to let federally funded research use master cells from discarded human embryos, questioning why some lawmakers would rather throw away the embryos than use them in experiments that Reeve believed could one day help him walk again (Neergard, 2000).
Before his death, Reeve asked (Neergard, 20000), "Is it more ethical for a woman to donate unused embryos that will never become human beings, or to let them be tossed away as garbage when they could help save thousands of lives?"
President Bush opposes federal financing of "experimentation on embryonic stem cells that…