I read recently that Michael J. Fox's foundation is pouring millions of dollars into embryonic stem cell research to combat the Parkinson's disease that he has been living with since his early thirties. He is hoping to find a treatment that will extend his life by twenty or thirty years, and possibly even a cure. My problem with this is, at what expense?
The reality is, people die; and some people die young. My father died at the age of 48 of brain cancer. If there were a treatment available for my father that involved the destruction of human embryos, I know for a fact that he would have refused it. There is no way that he would destroy other lives to stay alive one more day.
We are not guaranteed that we will live to old age. We don't have the right to stay alive at any cost. Selfishly we all want ourselves and our families and friends to live long lives. The reality also is that the world is full of incurable diseases, and there are just some things we should not do to try to cure them, such as use the bodies of unborn children as research material. We can only prolong the inevitable for so long anyway.
My mother suffered for nearly twelve years from alzheimer's disease. What was once a vibrant, intelligent woman became a helpless shell who could no longer do the simplest tasks for herself. Yet, I would no sooner wish that Alzhiemer's reseachers used embryonic stem cells in their search for a cure for this horrible disease than I would wish that my mother had been hooked up to Dr Jack Kevorkian's little machine with the "get me out of here" button so that her life could have been ended sooner than later. While to some her life may have seemed meaningless, to me it had dignity and purpose until such time as she died not by some artificial means but when she died because it was her time, as she did last August.
In point of fact the only real success that has been achieved with stem cells in treating disease has been with adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are too erratic (or so says Dr. Oz, of Oprah fame) and unpredictable in how they grow and change.
One of my close friends who was struggling with Multiple Myeloma was being treated with adult stem cells. He had tried two types of adult stem cell transplants (one his own cells and one from a donor- his sister) in his efforts to beat back this disease. After four years, he lost his courageous fight with this disease at the age of 57. I am sure that if they offered him a chance to try an embryonic stem cell treatment he too would have refused.
Life isn't fair, we aren't promised a certain quantity of years. but we can control the quality of the years we have.