When does life begin? Discussion around stem cell research usually forces us to confront this issue. I'm torn. I'm a diabetic. I have an embryo in the freezer. And I don't know if I personally could give up my own embryo to cure my own disease.
But I have to agree with Stacey_D. I hope that Barack Obama and a new administration will lift the restrictions around stem cell research and allow science to explore the possibilities -- cures for cancer, diabetes, even spinal chord injuries.
When does life begin? I don't know. But I do know that we shouldn't turn our backs on the people who desperately need cures to their diseases and who are with us, right here and right now.
Two weeks before Halloween 1985, I was diagnosed with Type 1 - or Juvenile - Diabetes. I was 9 years old. I couldn't comprehend this new disease. I only got the gist of it when my mom told me, "Sorry, kid, no Halloween candy for you this year." That, and all the shots. Oh, the shots. So many needles.
When I was 11, I found one of my mom's old nursing textbooks on the bookshelf and looked up Diabetes. The first entry showed a picture of a shriveled preemie and the frightening caption: "A diabetic's baby." I freaked. My mom explained the textbook had been written decades earlier, and that scientists were making leaps and bounds towards a cure for my type of Diabetes. "I bet you they'll have a cure in five years," she said confidently.
Now, twenty-odd years later, I'm still waiting for that cure. Waiting for that day when I don't have to give myself injections of insulin and prick my finger to test my blood sugar. Waiting for that day when I can skip a meal or eat a hot fudge sundae. Waiting for that day when my pancreas starts working again and I don't have to worry about a future full of complications like blindness, amputation and freaky shriveled babies. (Every time I think about having a baby, I remember Julia Roberts as Shelby in "Steel Magnolias" and it ruins my day.)
Our current president, George W., has twice vetoed bills passed by Congress that would have lifted restrictions on stem cell research. Bush has made clear he will not condone embryonic stem cell research. It's a touchy issue - as touchy to some as abortion - because some people consider these embryonic stem cells to be little itty-bitty unborn babies, since they hold in them the makings of human life. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands embryos stored across the U.S., most of them reserved for infertile couples. And many of these embryos will go unused when they could go towards scientific research, with the possibility of curing diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's or Type 1 Diabetes. Currently, American scientists are forced to utilize in their research adult stem cells, which have numerous limitations.
But there's hope with our new President-Elect. Barack Obama has made clear his intention to lift restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. As he states on his website: "We should expand and accelerate research using these embryos, just as we should continue to explore the viability of adult stem cell use, cord blood use, and amniotic fluid use."
Scientific progress has been forced to a standstill these past eight years. Let's see research and development move forward to bring the American medical community up to date with foreign nations, who have been going forward with embryonic stem cell research in hopes of curing diseases. Not to be selfish, but c'mon... I really want a hot fudge sundae.
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