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Reeve Interview on Stem Cell Research

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    Reeve Interview on Stem Cell Research

    Here is the transcript of Christopher Reeve's with Brian Williams on July 23, 2001:

    Brian Williams: Christopher, what is your basic
    position on this, right now, incendiary issue of stem cell
    Christopher Reeve: I see it in terms of logic. And I
    think logic should be applied to any moral dilemma. So, if
    you start with a couple of facts and a question. The first fact
    is that 100 million Americans stand to benefit from all kinds
    of stem cell research. And for some patients, like ALS
    patients, it's the only help.
    Second fact, is that for 40 years fertility clinics, which
    have to be licensed by the state, have routinely been
    throwing out excess fertilized embryos into the garbage.
    So, the question, if you believe that life begins the
    moment an egg is fertilized, then doesn't it follow that
    murder - state sanctioned murder - is routinely going on
    in fertility clinics? And wouldn't you want to put a stop to
    that because it's immoral? And I don't see that happening. I
    see a major disconnect. And the reason there is this
    disconnect is because, today, one-in-six American couples
    are using fertility clinics. And, second of all, it's big business.
    Just one try is $25,000.
    So, any politician that goes home and says, 'We are
    now gonna shut down fertility clinics because it's destroying
    life,' would never get back in office. And that, for me sitting
    in a wheelchair, for somebody with ALS is tremendously
    hypocritical. So I - just to pick an opponent at random,
    [Sam Brownback, R-Ka.] from Kansas says, 'It's illegal,
    immoral, and unnecessary to do this research.' And then I
    asked him - we were on a panel together - I said, 'Well,
    where are... fertility clinics, because you're killing life with
    state approval?'
    And he said, 'I hadn't really thought about that.' That,
    to me, is a big affront. You know there has - you haven't
    thought about it? So I believe the question is you wouldn't
    get elected, you would not be back in the Senate if you tried
    to close them down.

    And one other point to make is that the AMA, the
    American Medical Association, recognizes infertility as a
    disease that can be treated. And that at least 12 state's
    insurance will cover it. So, I'm looking at the size of the
    equation. I'm looking at how many people have lives to be
    saved. What progress could happen in terms of pro-life.
    Pro-life is also for the living. And I thank God that there is
    now a ground-swell of support, you know, from really the
    strongest... to understand the distinction between a fertilized
    embryo headed for the garbage, and an embryo... that will
    become a life. So you can be pro-life, and pro-stem cell.
    Brian Williams: The pope today - Associated
    Press: Pope John Paul II urged President Bush to bar using
    human embryos for medical research saying, Monday, 'That
    America has a moral responsibility to reject sanctions that
    devalue and violate human life.' That's the position you're
    up against.
    Christopher Reeve: Yeah, but that's the pope. And
    there's a big difference - and with all due respect, you
    know that there's a big difference between the the hierarchy
    of the church, the pope, the cardinals, the bishops, and the
    rank and file member of the Catholic Church.
    So, for example, your average Catholic has to decide
    what part of the religious doctrine they're going to follow
    and what not. Many people believe, for example, that
    priests should marry. Because priests give marriage
    counseling. Now, if they're not married, and a lot of them
    are even, you know, caught - questionable practices in
    their own lives, how are they gonna do effective marriage
    And there's the question of contraception, birth
    control. Because individuals get to decide whether they
    want to have more children or not? That's what most
    Catholics are up against.
    So, I'm very glad that - as I understand it - that the
    president did not give the pope any assurance or direct
    And now we're in a position where 60 senators- 60
    senators from both parties, obviously, support federal
    funding for this research. And there've been tremendous
    conversions of... people like Bill Frist, right, who himself is a
    doctor, and an anti-abortionist, and a very strong Catholic.
    Strom Thurmond, who I would have thought was absolutely
    unmovable, has a daughter with diabetes, and that this is her
    best hope of survival. And, again pro-life means for the

    Brian Williams: When you -
    Christopher Reeve: I mean, we are used to
    governmental control. On the local, state, and federal level
    they should be there. That's why 12 year olds aren't
    allowed to drive cars. That's why the state says you have to
    go to school until you're 16. So, you know, there has to be
    some purpose for government, and that's why we elect
    people, that's why we have this system, to avoid absolute
    So, when it comes down to this, the stem cell issue,
    and you look at the fact that all 50 states license fertility
    clinics, then why aren't the opponents trying to approach
    the state legislatures and say, 'This is inappropriate for a
    state to do?' It's not happening anywhere, as far as I'm
    If someone can tell me where there's legislation
    introduced in the state house to shut down fertility clinics, I'll
    be amazed. I don't think you can find it in one out of 50.
    Brian Williams: The opponents of this say, almost to
    a person, the issue shouldn't be about embryonic stem cells.
    There are plenty of adult stem cells out there. What's wrong
    with that?
    Christopher Reeve: They're missing some very vital
    information. This whole matter is a question of education, as
    a matter of fact. Now, yes, adult stem cells are found in the
    brain, they're found in the spinal cord. They're found in
    bone marrow. However, these are cells that already have an
    identity. They're already doing some kind of a job in the
    body. So, would it be possible to engineer to be like
    embryonic stem cells that can become any tissue in the
    body? Well, perhaps.
    But scientists could spend the next five years trying to
    do that, and end up with either nothing, or end up with
    basically pseudo-embryonic stem cells. But we have those
    available now. And another five years of research on
    something speculative, there's a lot of people gonna die in
    the meantime, unnecessarily.
    Brian Williams: How could this help you?
    Christopher Reeve: Well, in my particular case, I
    suffer from a very small area in the spinal cord, just below
    the brain stem, in the second vertebrae, where I had a
    hemorrhage in the middle of the cord. And this damage of
    blood, what it did was it took the myelin coating off of some
    nerves, and that's why I have very limited movement, can't
    breathe on my own, etc. So, just a quick word, myelin is
    like a rubber coating around a wire. And without that
    coating the wire can't conduct electricity. So, myelin coats
    the nerves. So, if you become de-myelinated, and the
    signals from the brain don't go down to the nerves to their
    target, the messages don't go through.
    But, human embryonic stem cells can easily be
    engineered to become myelin. And then they simply would
    be put in, right at the site by injection. And the experiments
    in the rat models are tremendous - tremendous.
    I have literally seen rats who were paraplegic, and then
    they [get] these cells - human embryonic stem cells
    injected into mice or rats - mostly rats, they're a little bit
    bigger. Anyway - and see these rats after this treatment,
    six weeks later they're trying to climb out of their little...
    where they're able to, literally able to, climb a rope ladder
    with all four legs. And they're - you'd never know that
    there's anything wrong with them.
    And for me, I mean I need to talk about myself,
    because I feel I'm not just representing spinal cord people.
    You know, with re-myelination just in itself, that's what's
    wrong with MS - it's what happens to people with MS. It
    would also help people with stroke, it would help people
    with Alzheimer's. You know, it just - the list of diseases is
    But, the ones that would be cured easier would be
    Parkinson's and diabetes. Because, one, you have the
    question of dopamine. And the other you have the question
    of insulin. And the deficit is in a very small area of the brain.
    So, you get the stem cells to be influenced. So to get them
    to be dopamine is a pretty simple thing to do.
    And I would bet, jet full steam ahead, Parkinson's and
    diabetes could be wiped out, cured just like polio was, in a
    matter of few years.
    Brian Williams: That's an incredible.
    Christopher Reeve: Yeah, and that -
    Brian Williams: - you're so high -
    Christopher Reeve: - millions of people -
    Brian Williams: My question is more of a reaction to
    the last thing you said. And when you say with some clarity
    and assurity that we're talking about cures for that group of
    diseases, we all know people who have those diseases. In
    just a few years - that's a very compelling argument.
    Christopher Reeve: Yes. And because this research
    is so new - I mean, it's only three years, it was 1998 that
    scientists discovered these cells, and the potential that they
    had of becoming tissue in the body. So you're dealing with
    something very, very new.
    But I think that without - everybody should not just
    climb on from moral or ideological spot. The first job is to
    become fully informed to what it's all about. And so, for
    example, I mean many politicians that our group has talked
    to, I mean the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation,
    you'd literally have to go in there and make a distinction and
    say, 'A stem cell is a size of a dot made by a little...' It's a
    pencil point. It's tiny. And, you know, it's headed for the
    garbage anyway in these clinics.
    We don't want to create embryos just for research.
    We want to rescue these cells from the garbage. Then you
    go, I don't understand how you can be opposed to that. I
    don't. But, then, nothing's impossible.
    However, I think there's a ground-swell of grass roots
    support... And I think that one of the greatest things
    President Bush could do is to take this opportunity to say, 'I
    know that during the campaign I said I was against
    embryonic stem cell research. But now I've listened to
    everybody on all sides, and I've changed my mind.' And
    that would be so great. That would really endear him to the
    American people.
    Brian Williams: Thank you.
    Christopher Reeve: My pleasure, thank you

    The man looks close to burning out.

    He brings up some good points, but viewing his picture after clicking the link shocked me a little. Chris needs a vacation soon.
    "So I have stayed as I am, without regret, seperated from the normal human condition." Guy Sajer


      I haven't seen Christopher recently but several people told me that he was wearing a wig. I do hope that he takes a vacation and relax. Wise.


        where does a vent quad go and do on vacation?


          Hair, Hair

          While it is certainly possible that Chris may have
          lost hair because of some new medication or
          therapy, I think the likely cause may be a
          condition that he had long before he was injured.
          Back during the Superman years I recall seeing in
          the tabloids a photo of Chris with a round patch
          of missing hair. The explanation given was that
          he suffered from Alopecia Areata (patchy
          baldness). I know that eyebrows can be affected.
          In the past, Chris's hair apparently has regrown -
          let's hope that happens this time


            What an idiot Senator BrownBack is. I'm surprised he doesn't become a democrat, with his anal itellect, he would be a perfect political bed mate for Ted Kennedy or Hillary Clinton..!..hehe



              Hi, DA

              Christopher works very hard, harder than anybody that I know. He also travels more than almost anybody that I know. At most of these time, he is on display and has to behave in certain ways. In addition, he has a rigorous daily schedule of exercise and works hard every day keeping his body in shape. He has many visitors. Everybody needs down time, be with friends and family that he/she does not need to play a role for. On vacation, he can turn off the telephone, watch television, play with the computer, read, spend time with his wife and kids, kibitz, and relax. Probably the same thing that you would do if you were on vacation. What do you do on vacation?P


                Yeah Chris, take a break...

                I will take over the role of travelling around and discussing spinal cord injuries with everybody. Just let me know how long you need me. :-)


                Last edited by Steven Edwards; 12 Aug 2007, 11:49 AM.
      's worse than we thought. it turns out the people at the white house are not secret muslims, they're nerds.


                  You Push to hard somethings got to give

                  Definately agree, I have felt that he needs to back off for a while. The last thing he needs is to end up hospitalized or something.
                  "Life is about how you
                  respond to not only the
                  challenges you're dealt but
                  the challenges you seek...If
                  you have no goals, no
                  mountains to climb, your
                  soul dies".~Liz Fordred


                    hi dr young
                    i kinda figured that is what was meant by his vacation. not much of a reason to travel to the carribean with not much to do as a quad. it would drive me nutts watching everyone have fun. the forum would definately feel my pain when i return.

                    i have traveled a lot, but havent really went on a vacation since my injury. one springbreak a couple of friends and i drove off into the mojave desert to get lost. we were nearly out of gas, so we put the car in neutral and coasted 80 miles down hill to the next gas station. we started off 3000 feet above sea level, ended up 200 feet below sea level at death valley.


                      Hair Hair

                      I agree. Even stress can do in the old follicles. Not to mention heavy handed nurses with a comb. Vacations are Mother Nature's way of saying relax or I'll relax you.

                      My next vacation will be a cruise to whale and seal and dolphin watch from NYC to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland down the St Lawrence to Quebec City and up a smaller river to watch the fall colors. With midnight chocolate buffets the spousal unit and I will be wiggly relaxed lumps by mid October.

                      Shut up, DA! [img]/forum/images/smilies/mad.gif[/img]
                      Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

                      Disclaimer: Answers, suggestions, and/or comments do not constitute medical advice expressed or implied and are based solely on my experiences as a SCI patient. Please consult your attending physician for medical advise and treatment. In the event of a medical emergency please call 911.


                        I also was shocked at how he looked. I'm sure going on vacation as a c1 quad must be a logistical nightmare like DA said. I'm sure Chris can do it though.

                        I think Reeve will wait untill Bush makes his decision on stem cells before considering slowing down. I hope he vacations soon also, he needs it.


                          is there anything like wheelchair demolition derby exist? i sure like to sign sue and i up.


                            Reeve vacation - Hah!

                            All this talk of a Reeve vacation - fergetaboutit! He's producing a movie based on the true story of a young person with SCI set to air this fall. The film was virtually finished when the network decided instead of the kind of "gritty" drama that airs later in the evening they wanted something they could show earlier during "family time." This meant the whole thing - starting with the script - had to be reworked. It also means that CR will have to delay by about 6 months his new book (already announced by Random House) titled "Nothing in Impossible.