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Monday, October 11, 2004

If I seem a little curt in the comment box below...

Consider this the apology for the tone. Sort of.

Frankly, waving the "Patient Suffering From X" is a 21st Century equivalent of waving the bloody shirt. It is usually done, as was the case below, with a "You'd cut off his pain meds, too" tone that poisons the well quite nicely, thanks. Hey, I can do it too: I know a patient suffering from an advanced case of Parkinson's who lives in Italy. He drools on himself, shakes uncontrollably, and slurs his speech. Here's the catch: He's passionately--passionately--opposed to embryonic stem cell research.

Does that even the playing field? Are we equal now--each of us with passionate suffering advocates on opposite sides of the equation? If that's what it takes, so be it.

Moving on--consider this fact: embryonic stem cell research supporters present the case for their caused as the panacea for all human infirmities. Consider Ron Reagan, Jr.'s speech at the Democratic National Convention:

And another thing, these embryonic stem cells, they could continue to replicate indefinitely and, theoretically, can be induced to recreate virtually any tissue in your body. How’d you like to have your own personal biological repair kit standing by at the hospital? Sound like magic? Welcome to the future of medicine.

Leaving aside the oddity of a former ballet dancer with no medical background purporting to accurately describe the advantages of advanced medical research in its initial stages (somewhat like the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles purporting to describe the technical advantages of the latest generation of snowblowers), not only do all of us know a Patient X--each of us is Patient X. Have a family history of dementia, heart disease, various cancers--like mine? You can now weigh in on ESCR with full credibility--even if you obviously happen to be a heartless theocrat one step removed from burning Galileo at the stake.

Like me.

If I might, I'd like to offer an alternative approach--let the kids live, and harvest the cord blood instead, which is a truly rich source of stem cells. With upwards of 200,000 embryos in "storage," just think of the possibilities--and the families desperate for children who can now have them--two problems solved at once.

A final aside, a chilling thought for the morning: what if ESCR does achieve breakthroughs? You might want to hope that Christian Scientists and Jehovah's Witnesses continue to win court cases regarding forced medical treatment. Think about it. Though I have real doubts as to how long a conscience exemption would last against the demands of "public health."

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