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Bush’s embryonic stem cell stance helps to keep her in a wheelchair

| Source: democratandchronicle.com

(July 25, 2006) — A budding young artist eagerly applies himself to developing his talent, but he’s frustrated when his teachers allow him to work only in one medium, with one color. Begging for more materials to work with, he’s told that red is all he deserves and finger-painting is quite enough. When he fails to produce the colorful masterpieces his early talent had promised, he’s dismissed as a failure.

This is analogous to the scenario that President Bush and like-minded Congress members have created for embryonic stem cell research. They have tied the hands of scientists eager to learn whether these clusters of cells can lead to numerous cures as they have indicated, or at the least, a better understanding of life and human development that may open up doors to knowledge that we cannot even imagine today.

Don’t think for a minute that these scientists are callous or unethical. It is because of their high ethical standards that they seek to use only embryos from fertility clinics whose parents have specifically donated them for research, and that are destined to otherwise eventually die.

Last week, I watched President Bush give his veto speech of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, H.R. 810, surrounded by so-called “snowflake babies.” Wonderful. I applaud the parents of those children, both biological and adoptive, for giving them the opportunity to be born and develop. I’m sure they are cherished.

However, only a small percentage of all the extra embryos created in fertility clinics will be adopted and become babies. And there is no therapy from adult stem cells that has ever cured — or promised to cure — many conditions, including spinal cord injury.

I have a spinal cord injury. Admittedly, my focus on embryonic stem cell research is narrow. My heart also goes out to those who suffer from conditions like ALS or Alzheimer’s who know their time is limited, and for their families, who must live with their loved ones’ decline and untimely deaths. I have great empathy for those with Parkinson’s or diabetes, as I know that these illnesses must be terrific burdens.

But I live with spinal cord injury. I know firsthand how horrific and unforgiving a condition it can be. I hope every day to hear news about any therapy that shows promise of a cure. Whether it takes one year or 30, those cured would enjoy for the rest of their days an immeasurable improvement in the quality of life that cannot truly be understood by those without a spinal cord injury. I hope to be among those who are someday cured; if not, I am hopeful for all who could benefit.

For those whose sentiments about the immorality of embryonic stem cell research are unintentionally misguided, learn the facts before you draw conclusions. For those who may make false or misleading accusations about embryonic stem cell research to promote their agenda, shame on you.

If embryonic stem cell therapy eventually proves effective for spinal cord injury, President Bush, by limiting the embryonic stem cell lines available for such research in 2001, will have condemned me to unnecessary confinement in this wheelchair for eight years — the length of his term in office. Shame on him for that anti-life policy.

Beck lives in Holley, Orleans County.

Susan Beck
Guest essayist

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