A Catholic With Dementia and Diabetes Reflects on Stem Cell Use

Leah Health Guide
  • Stem cell research has not been a hot ticket topic for our leading contenders for President. Each has had his or her own dealings with it in some form or another. However, they have chosen to push it to the back burner in favor of hotter topics such as covering the uninsured, healthcare reform, and drug prices. I cannot profess to be an expert on stem cell research, but it is an important topic to develop, to discuss.


    Senator McCain has come around to support the use of adult stem cell research and opposes the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes. He, more or less, takes the viewpoint of the Pope and Catholicism, who want scientific progress based on ethical-moral principles, and who want respect for human beings from conception until natural death. This viewpoint also includes the respect of natural transmission of life through sexual intercourse, not through artificial insemination. I can relate to Senator McCain and to the Pope because I am a Catholic. I should be following the dictate of the church. However, God has granted me with a wise mind and free will. I have difficulty blindly following sometimes, which leads me to my conflict...

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    I believe in stem cell research. Look around and one can find any number of reasons why such research could be helpful...hopeful. Nancy Reagan, after watching the slow decline of her virile, intelligent husband, Ronald, opposes the restrictions which President Bush has put upon such research. Michael J. Fox, an articulate and once active actor, advocates such research in hopes that others will not have to be faced with his debilitating disease in the future. Those people such as myself who suffer greatly with diabetes may not have to leave a legacy of disease to our descendants with help from additional research.


    McCain and the Catholic Church are not against adult stem cells and umbilical cord cells for research and use. However, the usage of each is quite limited. It is necessary to increase the number of viable cells. At this time, President Bush is limiting stem cell research to just twenty-one viable lines. These are old. They do not grow well. Where is the foresight needed by a national leader? There are over 400,000 embryos being stored at this time. Only a small percentage will actually be used to produce babies. The rest? They will remain frozen indefinitely or destroyed. Why not use these cells for research? Of course, this amount will not be nearly enough to do the amount of research needed. Many more cells will need to be harvested.


    Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama favor increasing stem cell research. Some may see this as liberal thinking. Perhaps thinking about stem cell research in another way may help to change that viewpoint. Case in point: Other nations will not show such limitations in their research. Imagine what gains those countries could make-and at what expense to our own country. How might that affect the power of the nations involved? How might that shift affect the United States of America on the rest of the world?


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    Over 100,000 Americans develop Alzheimer's each year. More than a million will develop diabetes. It is an epidemic. There are countless accidents resulting in spinal cord injuries. Our country cannot just depend on better health information and broader coverage of health insurance. There must be a balance involving additional research, too.


    This election has intrigued me more than any other. It has made me think. Perhaps it is because I have dementia and diabetes that I have become so much more interested in the views of the candidates. I know it is important to look at the WHOLE candidate, at all the views. The time will come when each one of us will have to weigh the good and the bad to make that all important decision on Election Day, November 2008. I am doing my homework about stem cell research et al. HealthCare ‘08, developped by HealthCentral, has been a wonderful tool to give me a visual picture of where I see my views in regards to the candidates' standpoints. But it is only a start. I must continue to listen and watch each closely as the election nears.


    Obama? Clinton? McCain? I'm not sure yet who will be my choice, but you can be sure I will be letting McCain know how I feel!

Published On: February 15, 2008