Sunday, June 05, 2005

Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope

Dear Senator Coleman,

My name is Scott Stafne. I am 33 years old and I have ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). I have a wonderful wife and a brand new baby girl, and I desperately want to be there for both of them for as long as possible. Stem cell therapy, while unproven, holds perhaps the greatest potential to help keep me alive. Current government policy is far too limiting on stem cell research, and I simply don't have the time to wait for legislative paranoia and red tape to work itself out. I am convinced that eventually our government will do the right thing. I only pray they do it in time.

The federal government, as of last summer, has already spent more money on the war in Iraq than on funding research for all diseases, all illness, throughout the entire decade of the 90’s. What does that say about our values? Our priorities? I realize tanks, missiles, and ships cost a great deal of money, and I fully support our troops, but can you imagine how many more lives we’d save if we put the same money and energy into curing disease? Instead of building walls between ourselves and the rest of the world?

I also realize the ethical and moral dilemma posed by embryonic stem cell research. But I ask you, which is the immoral choice here? Allowing a couple to willingly donate material from their own bodies to help save lives? Or maintaining that the only option is to throw existing embryos in the garbage? An embryo is not a fetus. Like a stem cell, it merely has the potential to evolve into something greater. If my wife and I want to combine a part of ourselves in an effort to save my life, so I can be there for her, and for my daughter, what business does the government have in telling us no? As for the relation of cloning to embryonic stem cells, I fail to see why we can’t place restrictions on cloning and still allow research to go forward on finding treatment for disease.

I have never begged for anything in my life. But right here, right now, I swallow my pride and beg you, Senator Coleman, please give me a chance to live. Please give me hope. Please give hope to the millions of us with diseases like ALS. I ask that you join me and others in our state in the fight against Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), by cosponsoring S. 471, the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005 and urging the Senate leadership to schedule a vote on this important legislation. The House passed the companion bill to S. 471 on May 24 by a bipartisan vote of 238-194.

I trust you will receive numerous letters with boilerplate information about the current legislation, urging you to support it. But I’d rather leave you with one last question. If somebody you loved, a son or daughter, a mother or father, were to be diagnosed with ALS or another horribly incurable disease, wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to give them a chance to live? A chance to hope? That is why I write to you today. I do not ask for myself. I ask for my wife. I ask for my daughter. And for the millions of families who need your help.

Most sincerely and respectfully,

Scott Stafne

The above is a letter I recently sent to the senators of Minnesota, urging their support for stem cell legislation. Regardless of how you feel about this issue, I encourage you to make your own voice heard. An easy avenue to do so is via http://capwiz.com/alsa/home/, where it takes about 5 minutes to send an email to the relevant legislators for your area. Even if President Bush vetoes this legislation, should it pass the Senate, there is a movement afoot. People are starting to become more informed, more aware, and more convinced than ever before that this avenue must be explored. It will inevitably happen in other parts of the world. We have the opportunity to make it happen right.

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