Thursday, July 27, 2006

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

We all knew Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father. We may have acted surprised, but deep down, we knew. As much as Luke might have hoped against it, he knew it to be true. It was destiny. And so it is with President Bush’s decision to veto vital stem cell research legislation passed by both the House and Senate. More than two-thirds of the country might have hoped against it, but deep down, they knew it was destined to happen.

Based on Bush’s track record, it came as no surprise. His stubborn inability to compromise (loved by some, loathed by many) made the announcement of his veto a mere formality. We had only to find out which of the few “saved” children he would parade in front of the cameras. Conspicuously missing from the spectacle were the millions of people suffering from disease. Or footage of frozen embryos being tossed into the garbage.

I became an inadvertent public advocate for the stem cell cause recently. A local news station came out to do a human interest story about us a few weeks ago. They asked me one question about stem cell research. Sure enough, they ran the story in conjunction with the Bush veto, wherein I had expressed frustration with current roadblocks. I never actually mentioned the administration. I didn’t think my comments would be used in a political sense. But I agree with the implication.

I’ve ranted about all this here before, but let me reiterate that I take the potential destruction of any life very seriously. Now more than ever. There are no easy solutions or answers. I am not advocating for the production of embryos for research. I don’t want life to be sacrificed for my own. But that isn’t what stem cell advocates are asking for. The intent of the bill passed by Congress is very explicit: to allow for the donation of existing, unused embryos resulting from in vitro fertilization which are slated to be otherwise destroyed.

I’ve come to see such an act as similar to organ donation. Knowing I was about to die, I would rather donate my heart to save someone’s life than have it put in a dumpster. I’d rather donate my body for research than have it frozen for eternity. Such gifts are made every single day. So who’s to say who is crossing a “moral boundary” here? The debate will undoubtedly continue, as it should. This type of boundary is so grey it’s charcoal.

Oddly enough I had recently started to forget about the promise of stem cells. The subject has been so over-hyped to those of us with illness that it’s become easier to ignore it. ALS is a nasty disease. It may turn out that no type of stem cell can help defeat it. But I am absolutely convinced stem cells will help save lives in the future. I’ve searched my feelings. Deep down, I know it to be true. It is our destiny.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...


Would you consider forwarding your last entry to as many politicians as possible? I feel it would help...maybe not now but for the future.

Years ago, before we adopted, we tried invitro fertilization. The attempt failed and we were told that the last two embryos could be donated, frozen, or thrown away. We chose to have them frozen and a year later we tried again but they did not survive the thawing process. I could imagine how many women might choose to have them discarded, especially on multiple attempts. Most people agree that the parents should be given the choice concerning extra embryos, as we had been given, and it is so hard to understand why some would still argue that the ones targeted for discarding shouldn't be used to save lives.

My father died suddenly last September. He was a lover of Science, having taught high school Science and Astronomy for 39 years. I saw him wheeled out of surgery, alive but in distress, and 30 minutes later we were asked to say our goodbyes. He was still Dad, but barely breathing, succumbing to heart failure. When the doctors asked if we wanted to view his body after he passed away after another 30 minutes, I at first hesitated, afraid that my last memory of him might be a bad one. But when my mother and I saw him for the last time it helped us both. We could easily see that our wonderful husband and father was no longer in his sweet body. It was simply a body. Dad had gone. Being so devoted to teaching, Dad had years ago made arrangements with Texas Tech University Medical School to donate his body. He had told us that he didn't want to burden us with burial expenses and that he liked to think that maybe young doctors studying his body might someday help his grandchildren. He wanted to give everything he could, knowing how much could be learned, even from an old man's body.

Scott, in time, things will change as people start to accept difficult concepts. My own progress has been thankfully slow and my doctors are still calling my condition polyneuropathy, despite prescribing Rilutek when first suspecting ALS. I try to allow myself hope, but my twitches and muscle loss remind me that time is indeed precious. So I understand your frustration Scott. "Darth Vaders" do exist but I like to remember what Gandhi said when asked if peaceful resistance would have stopped Hitler. He said that there would have probably been great suffering, but that throughout history, goodness has always prevailed...always....

We have to keep that hope...for ourselves and for others...and to be thankful that God has given many men (and women) the intelligence to study, search, and discover cures.

Take care...