Stem cell research, one of the biggest hot-button topics in science today, is slowly garnering acceptance. But misconceptions still lie between bureaucratic roadblocks and scientific progress. Lectures, such as the one at the USF Sun Dome’s Corral, featuring actor Michael J. Fox, are the right step to explain to the public that stem cell research is not necessarily condoning or even encouraging abortion, a stance the Bush administration is propagating.
It is understandable that Americans shy away from stem cell research as soon as it is mentioned that cells from embryos could be used. But once it is explained that the embryos are not originating from abortions but in most cases are from fertility clinics, the topic suddenly appears less loaded to many.
It is, after all, not like women are aborting fetuses in order to “harvest” stem cells. Rather, the cells are left over from in vitro pregnancies but were “never even inserted into a woman’s body,” Faye Armitage, a mother whose paraplegic son could benefit from stem cell research, explained Tuesday. The cells are therefore used for scientific purposes instead of simply being discarded.
Naturally, it still has to be ensured that such research must be done under strict ethical guidelines. It would therefore be better to have such research take place under an ethically sound federal control, rather than pushing it away into the private sector where such guidelines are not followed.
The lecture’s panel, consisting of Fox, Armitage and her son Jason as well as USF’s Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, explained how stem cells could reverse paralysis such as Jason and help patients with Parkinson’s disease, the cause of Fox’s retirement from acting.
Fox was a vocal proponent of such research and questioned why President George W. Bush opposes it while members of his own party such as Sen. John McCain, Sen. Orrin Hatch and the family of late President Ronald Reagan support it. This is indeed a way of imposing the religious beliefs of one man on the scientific community of an entire nation.
By putting a human face on suffering that could be alleviated, the public is more likely to condone such research. Simply declaring it a taboo topic does not help anybody but rather sends the research into the private sector, if not abroad.