Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stem cell research, Galileo and the November election

Many of you know Helen Robertson, my ex-wife and retired MATC English instructor. Helen suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson's disease. Her mobility is impaired and her independence compromised.

These diseases have robbed her of the things that give life meaning. When our youngest daughter graduated from college, Helen was simply too ill to attend her graduation ceremony. She was also unable to attend Parents Day when Ohio State University honored our oldest daughter. Helen will never be able to walk her children down the aisle on their wedding day or take her grandchildren to the park. It forced her to retire prematurely from MATC and abandon her passion for writing and teaching. Her loss was also our students' and community's loss. . Helen’s illness has even robbed her of the joy of reading.

Helen's life has been destroyed by this disease. In one of her more despondent moments, she recently asked: "Why did this happen to me?" and said:" Sometimes, I think I would be better off dead."

Embryonic stem cell research, scientists believe, may provide a cure for illnesses like MS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Juvenile Diabetes and spinal cord injuries.

It might be too late for this research to help Helen. Her diseases may have progressed too far too fast. But it is nothing less than immoral to oppose or limit this important research that provides so much hope to so many who have suffered so much.

The opposition to embryonic stem cell research has historic parallels. Galileo Galilei, the great Italian scientist, was called to Rome in 1633, and tried for the crime of heresy for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun. The aged Galileo, in his 70's, was imprisoned in a church dungeon and threatened with torture if he did not recant. Fearing torture, and the fate of Giordano Bruno, whom the church burned at the stake a generation earlier for the same crime, Galileo recanted. He was confined to his home under house arrest, neither allowed to leave or to receive visitors, for the rest of his life.

The persecution of Galileo, however, did not end with his death. His heirs were refused permission to bury the great scientist in his family tomb at Santa Croce.

It wasn't until 1832 that Galileo's work was removed from the list of banned books that Catholics were forbidden to read. 200 years after the trial... and well after Sir Isaac Newton established the truth of the theory!

In 1992, Pope John Paul II formally apologized for the persecution of Galileo.

Those like Scott Walker who oppose embryonic stem cell research are no more right or moral than those who attempted to silence Galileo centuries ago. They are extremists pure and simple. Their Twenty-First Century inquisition against researching potential cures for debilitating diseases is immoral and must be stopped..

Tom Barrett has consistently supported all forms of stem cell research. The University of Wisconsin Madison has been a leader in this area of research which demonstrates tremendous economic as well as medical potential. Nancy Reagan, whose husband, President Reagan, suffered from Alzheimer's, is a strong, proponent of embryonic stem cell research.

When you vote on November 2nd, please remember that Tom Barrett has consistently supported embryonic stem cell research which his opponent would ban. And think about what has happened to Helen. If that doesn't convince you, think about an old Italian scientist named Galileo and watch the sun set. Then do the right thing.


Peter said...

Thanks for sharing this very personal story, Michael. So many people in the "debate" on stem cell research do have actual, real stories with living, breathing human beings - not political caricatures. It boggles the mind that people like Scott Walker would be so inhumane as to assault the dignity of a human being as to deny scientific progress toward finding cures, and in the meantime better treatments, for diseases like MS.

Let there be no mistake: When Scott Walker says he supports stem cell research, it's bullshit. He claims to support adult stem cell research. But he does not support embryonic stem cell research. This is not just quibbling, it's about whether or not he supports real research that has the potential to improve and save lives.

Walker says adult stem cell research has better potential -- that's bullshit too. Embryonic stem cell research is where the potential for cures lies, and the only reason that adult stem cell research looks somewhat better right now (to the untrained eye) is that Scott Walker's ilk, including and especially George W. Bush, tried to kill embryonic stem cell research for years.

Anonymous said...

While I feel for you and the suffering that your family is enduring, you are not only wrong with your history about Galileo, Bruno and the Church but you're also wrong about morality and Embryonic Stem Cell Research.

You cannot destroy one person's life, specifically without consent, to save the life of another. This morality is founded on Christian philosophy and theological principles. Where do you derive your moral compass from?

the other side of the coin said...

Peter, some people believe sun spots affect climate change. Do you give those ideas the same respect you expect other to give your theories?

What you label as "bullshit" others view as "fertilizer".

But then again when your head is stuck so far up the bulls ass, all you'll ever see is bullshit.

Anonymous said...

omg i am crying that so good. i hope you find a cure. we had a debate in school and i talked about this. its really important that there are people who suffer like this