July 31, 2004
"Your Own Personal Biological Repair Kit"
Ron Reagan Jr. was delighted to appear at the
Democratic National Convention this week to argue for "the greatest medical
breakthrough in our or in any lifetime: the use of embryonic stem cells -
cells created using the material of our own bodies to cure a wide range of
fatal and debilitating illnesses: Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis,
diabetes, lymphoma, spinal cord injuries."
"Millions are afflicted. Now, we may be able to put an
end to this suffering." As he spoke, many thought of his father,
President Reagan who died of Alzheimer's, a terrible
Assume ten years from now Reagan said, "You are
diagnosed with Parkinson's
disease." Your doctors "takes a few skin cells from your arm" the nucleus of
"placed in a donor egg whose own nucleus has been removed. A bit of chemical
or electrical stimulation will encourage your cell's nucleus to begin
dividing, creating new cells which will then be placed into a tissue
culture. Those cells will generate embryonic stem cells containing only your
DNA, thereby eliminating the risk of tissue rejection....
"Those cells - with your DNA - are injected into your
brain where they will replace the
faulty cells...In other words, you are cured. And another thing, these
embryonic stems cells could continue to replicate indefinitely and,
theoretically, can be induced to recreate virtually any tissue in your body.
How would you like to have your own personal biological repair kit standing
There are three major problems with this deceptively
First, the "personal biological repair kit" does
not exist. There is not one disease that
embryonic stem cells have cured. Not one patient who has been helped. Not
any success with animals. Not even embryo cells turned into adult cells.
Testifying before the Senate Subcommittee on Science,
Technology and Space
last month, Dr. Jean Peduzzi-Nelson said, "Embryonic/fetal stem cells have
the problems of overgrowth, rejection, possible disease transmission and
ethical issues. Tumors have been found in experimental animals and
disastrous results have been reported in two separate clinical trials using
You'd never know those facts from listening to Ron
The second problem is moral or ethical. What
Reagan perfectly described is
the way human beings can be cloned. If those cells were planted in a
womb, they could
develop into a baby - likely one with grotesque deformities. Further,
harvesting embryonic stem cells from human embryos causes their death. "Cloning creates new human beings who are destroyed to harvest their cells
like a crop," said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. It
also poses "a tremendous health hazard for women who undergo the procedure."
Finally, Reagan's web of half truths intentionally
neglected to note that many of diseases
he mentioned HAVE been successfully treated with (ital) adult (un-ital) stem
cells. Dr. Michel Levesque told the Senate subcommittee how he took such
cells via a needle biopsy
of a man's brain with advanced Parkinson's disease, treated them and
injected them back
into the patient.
Furthermore, the patient involved, Dennis Turner,
personally told the committee that in
1991 he suffered from "extreme shaking of the right side of my body and
stiffness in my gait and movements." After treatment his trembling has
virtually disappeared. Last month as a big game photographer, he shot
cheetahs and leopards in the wild and in 2001 scrambled up a tree to avoid
being run over by a Rhino.
Literally hundreds of patients have already benefited
from adult stem cell treatments for
multiple sclerosis whose symptoms stopped, cancer patients in remission and
spinal cord patients who have gotten out of their wheelchairs. Laura
Dominquez, 19, who was
paralyzed from the neck down after an auto accident, was treated and can now
walk 1,400 feet with braces.
Why isn't Ron Reagan excited about this progress? It would not get him a prime time
speech before the Democratic Convention.
Furthermore, as Dr. Peduzzi-Nelson put it, "The best
way to honor the memory and work of President Reagan is to NOT provide
Federal funding for something that President Reagan, if alive today, would
He testified, "The government should not finance an
area of research that is not only
dangerous but also viewed by many people as unethical."
Ron Reagan spun myths and half truths that mislead the
nation into thinking that embryonic stem cell research is a miracle around
The facts point in an opposite direction.
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