This Monday, President Obama will lift the nearly 8-year-old ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
It's about time. He should have done this on the afternoon he was inaugurated.
Of course, he's had a few other problems to deal with, such as The Great Recession, two wars, and trying to decide what kind of puppy to get, but let's face it, I have a vested interest here.
Quite simply, stem cell therapy offers my best, and, quite possibly, last hope at beating back this fracking disease. I don't expect that stem cells will ever cure MS (but then again who the hell knows, since no one knows what causes MS, so whatever it is, maybe stem cells will cure it), but they very likely will help repair some of the havoc wrought by the disease on MS damaged nervous systems, which for now is good enough for me.
I realize many people are morally opposed to embryonic stem cell research because they believe the destruction of a human embryo is tantamount to the taking of a human life. Quite frankly, if the embryos were five-month-old fetuses, I might agree with them. But the embryos in question here are zygotes, clumps of at most a few dozen cells. In order to be useful for stem cell research, these cells cannot have differentiated into specific types of tissue, such as bone, cardiac, skin, or nerve. In other words, these zygotes bear as much commonality to a human being as a clump of iron ore has to the Golden Gate Bridge.
The "embryos" in question are smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. Most of them are the byproducts of in vitro fertilization, and would literally be thrown away if they weren't used for research. Not using them to advance the cause of medicine and help put an end to scores of horrendous maladies would seem to me to be the greater sin, if sin is the question here.
Furthermore, in an age where cloning has become an everyday reality, any living cell holds within it the potential of becoming a fully formed life. Every time I scratch myself or pick my nose, I'm destroying thousands of such cells. Should those acts be prohibited as well?
Adult stem cell research also holds much promise, as is endlessly pointed out by embryonic stem cell foes. Most serious research scientists, though, say that embryonic stem cells hold by far the greater potential to do good. Many of the much heralded advances in adult stem cell research involve perfecting ways to get adult stem cells to behave like embryonic stem cells. If the same amount of time, money, and sweat equity had been spent researching the use of embryonic stem cells in the USA during the last eight years, rather than on trying to get adult cells to act like embryonic ones, we would be far further along the road of actually using the cells in a clinical setting.There are myriad problems yet to be overcome in using embryonic stem cells, but all we've so far succeeded in doing is wasting the better part of a decade in learning how to solve these problems.
So get to signing whatever it is you need to sign, Mr. Obama. Time's a wasting, as are my nerve cells and my ability to move my muscles. This isn't an exercise in theoretical morality. There are people dying out here, so let's stop fucking around and just get on with it.