Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Stem Cell Controversy

Politics and morality. To use those two words together could be considered an oxymoron, but the subject here is not whether politics are moral. They aren't. Politics is a technique of governance that in itself is not moral or immoral but can be either. This subject is about the role religions and individual concepts of morality are playing in the current political debate over stem cell research.

As an aside, I understand science has learned stem cells may be harvested from adult humans and some believe prove to be as valuable as those from an embryo (some also disagree with this). But for now the most effective way to do such research is with unused embryos which would otherwise be destroyed.

Into this simmering cauldron, Michael J. Fox, the actor, dove headfirst when he allowed his Parkinson's Disease symptoms to be fully shown in a video for a political ad urging voters to choose a senator who favors stem cell research. To me, his doing so was humble and brave especially in a culture such as ours where it's considered virtuous to hide differences so as not to make someone else uncomfortable.

To the members of the far right, Fox's appearance amounted to a challenge-- especially right before an election. At first it appeared to just be Rush Limbaugh putting his big foot in his equally big mouth. Limbaugh (ego on loan from who knows where) began by saying he thought Fox was faking his symptoms. When he was informed Fox had been seen other places in an equal state, and for him to film scenes for his show, it takes a lot of time and patience waiting for when he can get control of the spasms, Rush decided this was all the fault of the wicked Democrats who used Fox.

So to those of LImbaugh's mindset, Michael J. Fox not only has a physical disability but must also not have the intellectual capacity to decide this for himself. Hannity on his talk radio program joined the chorus, bringing in guests to validate the accusations against Fox and the Democrats for daring to make visible a severe disability. Fox's appearance gave a reality to a disease that some might have considered abstractly until then.

This bunch on the far right don't care about what they are doing to others. They have a spin agenda, and they follow it without mercy. Mercy is for church and pious talk.

First, I have some preset opinions on this topic. Nobody in this country is advocating creating embryos for research. The debate is over using those which are already created and frozen. They are ones that will never be used to impregnate a woman. If not used for research, they will either be destroyed or frozen forever. There could be as many as 400,000 of them.

Nobody forces those parents to donate the embryos for research; and, yes, they will be destroyed when the stem cells are harvested. If someone really doesn't like the idea of embryos being killed, if they see this as being murder, maybe they need to be working to stop such techniques that help childless couples get pregnant.

There is no talk of that; instead, it's about the embryo having a soul. For the purposes of this debate, what if life did begin at conception? What then would be the superior moral choice-- that the souls be kept on ice forever? Frozen is better than freed to go back to heaven-- if you think that way?

This summer, the spinmeisters used emotion to create a hundred baby photo-op for Bush as he signed his veto of stem cell research. The pretence was that those few could be all 400,000 frozen embryos. Not only do not all potential parents want someone else raising their genetic child, but some of those embryos are too old to be successfully implanted now. The fact it might help someone else live, who has already been born, is nothing to the kind of people where winning is everything.

I did some research on this topic. I already knew the spin from the right regarding it's being murder. I found this from a site which attempts to explain the debate from both sides:

"The human body contains 220 different types of cells. In 1998, researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore MD found a way of harvesting stem cells from embryos and maintaining their growth in the lab. Stem cells are a type of primitive cell. Scientists have found ways of developing these stem cells into most types of human cells, such as blood, brain, heart tissue, nerve cells, bones, etc. Researchers are confident that they will lead to treatments to many diseases: bone loss, broken bones, brain damage due to oxygen starvation, severe burns, cancer (some forms), diabetes, Lou Gehrig's disease, heart disease, hepatitis, incomplete bladder control, Huntington's, leukemia, lupus, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis, Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries, and stroke! The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research estimates stem cell research shows promise to develop cures and/or new treatments for 100 million Americans who currently suffer from a wide variety of diseases and disorders."
from http://www.religioustolerance.org/res_stem1.htm

I would like to ask a question-- if you watched the video Michael Fox made for Claire McCaskill in Missouri, and you saw in it what Hannity and Limbaugh did, I would like you to explain where your head and heart are? It's beyond me to understand.

I believe this argument is not over using embryos that will be destroyed anyway or frozen for eternity but rather about religious hypocrisy, and I am not sure why any Republican anywhere is not throwing up over it. (Please spare me a litany of the dumb things Democrats do. I won't defend them but this issue is about stem cell research and the Michael Fox ad.) If you haven't seen it, please click on that link. It might open your eyes if you follow it up with the pomposity of Hannity and Limbaugh. What a team those two make!

I do understand in the future the stem cells may be with adult humans, but it won't solve the problem of what you do with embryos that are already created. Is being permanently frozen anyone's idea of mercy?

If you believe in things like stem cell research, consider your vote carefully this November. The next Supreme Court Justice could well be chosen in the next two years; and if so, the vote you make in November could impact many such 'moral' choices which come not from science or even logic but some kind of religious piety that doesn't value life already here as much as that which 'might' be.

The Grand Tetons in Wyoming might seem like an odd photograph to choose to illustrate this subject, but when I think about the issue of stem cell research, I think of those who are suffering with crippling diseases, like Michael J. Fox. I believe we all want so much for there to be cures that allow these people to lead a good life. So this picture is for inspiration, for beauty and for hope. The emphasis should not be the ugliness of the political debate but instead the hope for a brighter future for those who right now do not know hope.


Parapluie said...

Count me as one for stem cell research. Eventually the current moral issues will be small as compared to the survival of human kind and all life. Life on earth is very fragile and anything we can do to make it healthier will make life sustainable.

Winston said...

Beautifully stated, Rain. You know where I stand on this. What is to me even more sickening than what Limbaugh did and said is the common people on the fundamental Christian conservative right that will either defend Limbaugh or at best dismiss his actions and words by saying we're making too big a deal of it.

I was raised as a Methodist by a good family who taught me values. Never once did they do so by ramming things down my throat or making threats or bible thumping or threatening me that I was going to burn in hell for eternity. They did it simply and quietly by living it. Guess what... I learned.

Today, especially here in the buckle of the bible belt, it has become increasingly difficult to stomach what the various denominations of Christian churches have become. They are centers for spawning hatred and vile behavior. The people who show up there every time the doors open (some are my relatives and "friends") are all blind Bush supporters. They really believe that he is the 2nd coming, or damn close to it.They will smile and shake my hand and act normal while holding the dagger in the other. And they will stab me in the back, turn me in to the cops or to Bush's gestapo, just for having an opinion not congruent with theirs. Theirs is THE chosen way and all others are damned to hell for eternity.

No, thanks, I don't want to be a part of their godless organization. I still have some morals and values left and an ability to think for myself.

And I apologize to you, Rain. I guess I just had a rant building up, just looking for a place to erupt. You provided a friendly place to do that. Now I feel better... I now must prepare for my Sunday worship services called NFL Football...

Sandy said...

I'm with parapluie on the stem cell research. I don't believe in "growing embryo's" strictly for research, sorry, not at all. If they are going to be thrown out or frozen forever absolutely, let them be of some valuable use. How someone could not know let alone not believe that Michael J. Fox has Parkinson's or that he would actually make up what happens to his body is ludicrous. I know several people with debilatating diseases and one is Parkinson's and I know of no one that would use this, not even as a stretch! to further politics in any way,shape or form. They have proven that stem cell research does help and if it can rid our world of some of the horrific and disabling diseases that we have, again, I am all for it. As for the controversy over embroyo's? That is just a whole other story.

Ingineer66 said...

I am for stem cell research but then again I am a pro choice Republican. I too was pretty shocked when I heard part of the Limbaugh diatribe about Michael J. Fox coming from a guy that has a bionic ear.
Oh and Winston, I attend the church of the Holy First Down also. We had services at the Oakland Coliseum today and there was much to celebrate.

Maya's Granny said...

I saw both Michael J. Fox and Limbaugh. It is hard to imagine anyone more sincere than Fox or more foul than Limbaugh.