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Thread: Bringing Purpose to All Forms of Human Life: Thoughts on Stem Cell Research

  1. #1
    Senior Member Max's Avatar
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    Jul 2001
    Montreal,Province of Quebec, CANADA

    Bringing Purpose to All Forms of Human Life: Thoughts on Stem Cell Research

    Bringing Purpose to All Forms of Human Life: Thoughts on Stem Cell Research

    By mwsanford, $
    March 9, 2009
    My wife Jennifer and I have a nine-year-old son named Paul. We are both his biological and everyday parents. This amazing, life-transforming opportunity was made possible by in-vitro fertilization - a process where a woman's egg and a man's sperm are combined outside of the woman's body, helped to form an embryo, and then implanted back into the woman's womb. Becoming a biological parent was a remarkable turn of events in my life. Thirty years ago, I was paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident at age thirteen. I was told that the chances that I could biologically produce a child were a million to one. I accepted this loss as part of my injury and lived my life. When medical science discovered a way to change this fact, an aspect of my ongoing injury healed.

    I am telling you this because I saw, under a microscope, the three eight-celled embryos that were implanted in Jennifer's womb. I saw them three days after conception. From those three embryos, Jennifer became pregnant with twins. One of our sons died in-utero at thirty-four weeks. Jennifer gave birth to both our sons, William and Paul, at thirty-seven and one-half weeks. The experience of this twin birth, one living son and one dead son, changed my life. It also is the closing chapter of my book WAKING: A MEMOIR OF TRAUMA AND TRANSCENDENCE. Jennifer and I are choosing not to try to have another child. We do, however, have other embryos that were not implanted and remain frozen in stasis. My point for this blog is that, when the debate rages about stem cell research from embryos, it is not an abstraction for me.

    I have had contact with stem cell research in another aspect of my life. The non-profit I founded Mind Body Solutions develops mind-body based programs for people living with disabilities and their caregivers, including family members and rehabilitation professionals. We are in the process of rolling out programs that aim to help our veteran population. One place this may happen in the coming years is the state-of-the-art spinal cord center that is opening at the Minneapolis VA hospital. They are interested in our work because they expect new treatments - deriving from stem cell research - for our men and woman who sustain spinal cord injuries. In fact, based on this research and subsequent nerve grafting procedures, the spinal cord unit medical director Dr. Gary Goldish expects that complete paralysis as a result of a spinal cord injury will be a thing of the past. He believes that complete recovery is a ways away yet, but, in the next five years, anywhere from a 10-30% recovery of voluntary movement will be standard. He foresees that our mind-body programs may complement these new treatments because, as this nerve-grafting happens, surgeons will not be able - at least not yet - to line up the axons correctly. This means that these men and woman will have quite a mind-body problem. For example, a patient might go to move his knee and his ankle might move instead. These men and women will have to retrain their mind-body relationships. Mind Body Solutions is excited and committed to sharing our expertise if the opportunity arises.

    To be fair, I do not know if this stem cell research project is being done with embryonic or adult stem cells. But I do know what this means for people living with spinal cord injuries. I do know what stem-cell breakthroughs will mean for people suffering with other disabilities and afflictions. For these people, the stem cell debate is not an argument based on principle. It is based on real life suffering and new hope for healing.

    There are no easy answers for the debate that surrounds stem cell research. My thoughts on it are pretty simple. The issue seems more clear cut if you considers it only in abstraction, as only an issue between competing principles, for example, the potential benefits produced by science versus a certain view of morality as it pertains to life. The stem cell issue is less clear when you learns about the people whose lives will be transformed. Stem cell research is an issue that each person will have to come to terms with in his or her own way. Personally, I am unwilling to look an injured veteran in the eyes and tell him that he cannot have access to a promising treatment because I might have a certain view of morality.

  2. #2
    Personally, I am unwilling to look an injured veteran in the eyes and tell him that he cannot have access to a promising treatment because I might have a certain view of morality.
    I hope Mr. Sanford's article is read by many, many people.

  3. #3
    Member skicat1898's Avatar
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    Jan 2002
    Meridian, TX. USA
    Great article. I am a Christian and a 13 year T-10 complete paraplegic. I believe God directly and indirectly created everything....

    I also believe God has given us the tools to cure all diseases and conditions that inflict the human body,,, and he gave us a brain with infinate capacity to figure out how to use the tools he has given us. Man has stepped in and legislated morality and has slowed the process....

    Who is anyone to say that God didn't give us embryonic stem cells for reasons other than populating the Earth?

  4. #4
    Max, thanks for posting this excellent article.

    The last statement concerning not being able to look a vet in the eye was excellent but suggests that the importance of doing something for vets overrides whatever may be morally problematic about human embryonic stem cell research. I think that there is nothing wrong with taking cells from blastocysts that are being thrown away.

    It is strange that so few people object to the cells being thrown away but so many are concerned when they are used to save lives. The travesty is not that they are being used but the fact that they are being wasted. Let's assume that anyone who wants to adopt them (and the parents are willing to donate the blastocysts) does so. There are still over 600,000 blastocysts that will be thrown away. So, what is wrong with using some of them for research and to save lives?

    I do appreciate what Representative Chris Smith said, that the advent of IPS cells will make embryonic stem cells obsolete for therapies. I agree that this is likely but he has to understand that he is asking people to wait more years. He should understand if people simply don't want to or cannot wait. Many thousands are dying. In the end, this is a matter of conscience and I hope that people look deeply into theirs before they choose to delay this research any further. The research has already been delayed for 8 years. Let's not delay any more. Let scientists to their work.

    The situation would be equivalent to a religious group deciding that use of human blood to treat diseases is abhorrent and a president decides that all NIH research on blood be restricted to cells that were isolated before his decision. People can still pay for blood transfusions on their own but all research must be conducted in non-NIH funded laboratories and only by private or state funds. This is what happened to human embryonic stem cells for 8 years.

    It is so important that Congress acts now to prevent this from happening again. If a president can do something that is as arbitrary as what Bush did to stem cell research, that means that they can do something as arbitrary as stopping NIH funding of blood research. Lest you think that I am being overdramatic, remember that the last time research was restricted to this extent was in the 1600-1800's when dissection of cadavers was considered to be immoral. This held back progress in medicine for 200 years.

    Many people object to human embryonic stem cells, saying that it is the first step down a slippery slope. The fact that IPS cells are on the horizon, that umbilical cord blood and bone marrow stem cell research is showing great promise, and there have been no abuse of human embryonic stem cells during the past 8 years should reassure people that all the nightmarish scenarios being painted of baby factories and armies of Hitlers aee not going to happen. There is no slippery slope.

    Let science go forward. The worst thing to do is to freeze science in midstep. Imagine what the world would be like today if people decided to stop developing locomotives or airplanes because it is unnatural to travel faster than 20 miles per hour or to fly. Imagine what the world would be like if we had frozen science in its 1995 state of ignorance concerning stem cells. We would be forever condemned to harvesting cells from aborted fetuses. Is this what people want? I sincerely hope not.

    Last edited by Wise Young; 03-10-2009 at 06:42 PM.

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