While approval of a new stem cell study and Barack Obama’s accession to the presidency are completely unrelated, the announcement that the first-ever human trials of stem cell therapy is monumental. Beginning this summer, a U.S. biotechnology company is going to test the safety and efficacy of stem cells on newly paralyzed people. The patients will be paraplegics and must have fresh injuries – less than two weeks old. Given that timeline, the math tells me that people walking around right now, none the wiser, will end up being the test subjects for this trial. Sorry about your misfortune in advance.
The old administration’s strict guidelines on federally-funded stem cell research essentially froze research in the U.S. in place while other countries advanced their own. Not cool. While stem cell research itself is not illegal in the U.S., not nearly enough private money exists to mount a legitimate research effort without federal funds. Obama has promised to loosen these guidelines and hopefully allow the flow of more federal dollars to these research projects.
Coincidental to this recent announcement, last week my wife and I went to the screening of a movie called “The Accidental Advocate“. While I’ve been a member of the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures for some time, seeing the film was my first detailed exposure to all of the issues surrounding this controversial research. The documentary only screened in 13 cities nationwide, and St. Louis was fortunate to be one of them. Admittedly, the film is very pro stem cell research, and in my opinion, rightfully so.
My opinion is that destroying stem cells in the hopes of finding therapies and cures for those suffering extremely debilitating conditions is more advantageous to humankind than the potential “evil” caused by the destruction of these cells, most of which are destined to become medical waste if they go unused.
Even if you are currently against stem cell research, you should make an effort to see this film. At worst, you become educated on the position of those in favor of the research, but in the end, hold firm to your current beliefs. No harm, no foul. At best, you change your mind or relax your opposition after actually learning about the issue in its entirety.
If your only guide to date has been spirituality, I’m not saying it shouldn’t remain an influence in your life. What am I saying is that once you learn about the science behind stem cell research, you will see that destroying stem cells for research is not a blatant disregard for human life. You will also see that you can remain confident in your spiritual beliefs while understanding that allowing this research to continue may alleviate massive human suffering, and doing so is a basic tenet of virtually every life philosophy, spiritual and secular.