Every human life has value.

Yesterday I had news for Nancy Reagan. Now it’s Fox’s turn. As a well known public figure with Parkinson’s Disease, Michael J. Fox made himself quite the spokesman for research that requires the creation, use and destruction of human life as a means of finding cures for diseases such as his own. No doubt he was excited to hear that some mice were successfully treated for Parkinson’s with embryonic stem cells derived from cloned mice embryos as this seems to be the research that is nearest and dearest to his heart. But is he also aware that human Parkinson’s patients have been treated in a clinical trial with bone marrow stem cells from their own bodies? From the story (h/t Don Margolis):

To date, Dr. Armestar’s team has implanted stem cells in 15 women and 32 men. The average age of the patients was about 50 years; Parkinson’s disease had been diagnosed from 1 year to 18 years before implantation.

At the 1-week follow-up, 39 patients had achieved a 35% improvement as assessed by a battery of Parkinson’s disease validated tests. At the 1-month follow-up, 34 patients showed a 52% improvement. At 3 months, 23 patients had improved an average of 59%; at 6 months, 6 patients had improved 76%; after 12 months the 1 person to reach that level had achieved an 80% improvement (P < .001), he said.

In a political ad two years ago Fox showed Missouri voters the dramatic effects of his disease while asserting that a man who is an steadfast and enthusiastic supporter of the kind of ethical and effective research mentioned above is an opponent of stem cell research who doesn’t share Fox’s “hope for cures”.

As a disabled person, I can sympathize with Michael J. Fox and others who honestly believe in cloning/ESC research and want to finally end the lasting effects of some of the most deadly diseases and crippling disabilities. But high expectations and good intentions do not justify the creation of life for experimentation or destruction.

The truth is, those of us who oppose the manufacture, use and destruction of human life, even to treat disease, are not against science, research or the finding of cures. In fact, we so desire scientific progress that truly benefits mankind that we reject any action that violates the dignity of human life in favor of more ethical and effective alternatives. For technical progress must be guided by clear ethical and moral standards in order to truly be considered an improvement and not a threat to the future of mankind. And guess what? If this were a game to keep score of, ASCs would be winning!

Previous posts:
Politicizing Disease
When Technical Progress Becomes a Threat

March 28th, 2008 at 11:58 pm
2 Responses to “Listen Up, Michael J. Fox!”
  1. 1
    Jennifer Says:

    I read your blog and felt the need to at least say something. First let me tell you a little about myself,so hopefully you can see where I’m coming from. I had both my children by the time I graduated High school, I am pro-choice and I feel strongly about abortion issues. I could have easily gotten an abortion and poof my “problems” were solved. But, I never even consider the thought of abortion. I was trying to do my best to take responsibility for my actions. I also have a unique connection and view when it comes to Parkinson’s Disease. My Grandmother suffered from the disease;she had early onset Parkinson’s like Michael J Fox. She was diagnosed in her early 40’s,by the end she had lost all control of her own body. In the last 10yrs or more she was unable to walk,swallow food,using the restroom,struggled w/ talking and of course she was unable to sit still. She was approached by her Dr’s about the stem cell surgery was discussed and recommended; it was the only option she had to better her quality of life. She refused the surgery because she was against the use of stem cells or embryo’s coming from abortions. There would be no real way for her to know for certain if the cells donated were from an abortion or not-so she felt strongly that it was just not an option for her.

    So you can see how I can get upset at the fact that there are people making comments,judgements and statements about Parkinson’s Disease when they have very little to absolutely no knowledge of the disease. And then there is so many people just waiting to take their shot at Michael J Fox because he speaks out. I think you should probably listen up yourself and do some research on the subject. I saw an interview that Michael J Fox did on NBC and he made quite a few points that I feel are key to the subject. All he was saying is that there are thousands of embryo’s that are destroyed everyday at fertility clinics. Many patients infertility treatment freeze their embryo’s and save them in case they are ever needed. There is a certain amount of time until the embryo’s are no longer usable for fertility procedures. After that point the embryo’s are literally thrown away like garbage. So why not make use of them;so much research could be done to someday cure many of the worst Diseases today. Please try to read or watch the interview w/ Michael J Fox-at least look at the issue from both points of view and then state your opinion to the world. People need to be a lot less judgemental and a lot more open minded. Where in his proposal I told you about is he suggesting the creation,use and destruction of human life? In fact it seems to me that he was only stating the fact that there are thousands of embryo’s that are being created and destroyed right now. Those can either be thrown out w/ the days garbage or we can make use of them in research facilities and possibly help to cure Parkinson’s and other debilitating diseases. To me this subject is clear and in no way do I see where Fox has suggested to violate the dignity of human life. And I do believe that w/ these discarded embryo’s we can make scientific progress that truly does benefit human life. Until you have seen,known or loved someone w/ Parkinson’s;you will never completely know the suffering or pain associated w/it. For the last 10yrs of my Grandmothers life she was trapped in her own body unable to care for herself or even communicate her needs. It broke my heart to watch her life drift away and she was in pain until the end. I would never wish this disease on even my worst of enemies. Please consider the people who you speak of and know the facts before you go making statements on the subject.

  2. 2
    Chelsea Says:

    Jennifer, thank you for your comments.

    First of all, let me just say that I may not personally know about Parkinson’s Disease, but I know a little something about suffering and living with what many would call a “devastating” disability. As a result of a spinal cord injury I am paralyzed from the chest down and cannot feel, move or control over 75% of my body, including most of my normal bodily functions. So I have nothing but the greatest sympathy for and even feel a certain kinship with those who also suffer from debilitating diseases and disabilities. But hard cases don’t justify the use and destruction of human life.

    I have been deeply involved in the stem cell debate for quite a few years now and have heard every side of the issue, including Michael J. Fox’s. The fact that an embryo is going to be destroyed anyway is not a justification for its use in scientific experimentation. Embryonic stem cell research necessarily involves the destruction of that nascent human life and killing a human embryo for scientific research, not to mention its very use for such a purpose, and throwing it in the trash both equally violate the dignity of that human life.

    He may not have mentioned it in the interview you watched, but Fox is not only in favor of embryonic stem cell research, using left over human embryos, which is the use and destruction of human life for scientific research. But he also favors what used to be termed “therapeutic cloning” – that is, the process of cloning human embryos through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) for the purpose of stem cell research. That would be the creation, use and destruction of embryos for scientific research. He has testified in favor of this research in Washington and his foundation website supports it, calling it “cell replacement therapy”, never once mentioning the fact that the process involves the cloning of human embryos. While campaigning for Claire McCaskill in the state of Missouri in 2006 he voiced support for a constitutional amendment being voted on in our state that would give scientists a constitutional right to clone and kill human embryos for scientific research.

    Not only is this research unethical, it may turn out to be impractical as well. No significant improvements have been made in the area of embryonic stem cell research even after 25 years of research in animal studies. In fact scientists are now beginning to back away from the promise of ESCs saying that they “may not deliver therapy for anything.” But the good news is that there is ethical and more effective stem cell research available to give hope and healing to those who suffer. As I pointed out in this post, human patients have been treated with stem cells that came right out of their own bodies. In other studies, uterine stem cells have triggered the growth of brain cells in mice and rats with Parkinson’s have benefited from adult stem cells that were reverted into embryonic like cells.

    Bottom line: As a person with a serious disability I have the greatest sympathy for those who suffer terrible diseases. I have heard the heartbreaking testimony of those who are desperate for cures and relief from their suffering. But that does not justify the use of human life for scientific research. It is precisely because I care so much about people in situations similar to or worse than my own that I promote these ethical alternatives to life destroying ESC research because they have proven to be more successful.

    peace,
    Chelsea