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Death of Reeve a Wake-Up Call to Opponents of Stem Cell Research

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  • Death of Reeve a Wake-Up Call to Opponents of Stem Cell Research

    Tuesday, October 12

    Death of Reeve a wake-up call to opponents of stem cell research

    The death of actor and stem cell research proponent Christopher Reeve should serve as a reminder that while the issue is being debated, those that could benefit are suffering.

    Actor Christopher Reeve died Sunday at the age of 52. Since May 1995, Reeve had spent his days in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down. This did not stop him from touring the country as a strong supporter of stem cell research. His passing is a staunch reminder that people are actually suffering - or dying, in Reeve's case - while scientific research could help them.

    Reeve, who reached fame portraying Superman in a series of movies, suffered a spinal column injury after a fall from a horse during a riding competition. His case was a prime example of a situation in which stem cells, through their ability to repair or even replace injured neurons such as those in the spinal column, could have vastly increased an individual's quality of life.

    Sen. John Kerry mentioned Reeve answering a question about stem cell research in last Friday's presidential debate.

    "Chris Reeve is a friend of mine," Kerry said. "Chris Reeve exercises every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day when he believes he can walk again, and I want him to walk again. I think we can save lives."

    It is usually in bad taste to politicize the passing of any individual, but Reeve had been pursuing the case since his accident. His life is an example of an instance where stem cell research could have helped. His legacy is honored, not exploited.

    Last Friday, Faye Armitage, mother of Jason Armitage, who suffered an injury similar to Reeve's during a soccer match, spoke during a campus event. She said politicians are exploiting the topic for their own gains, the "political reasons" being the attempt "to link stem cell research to abortion," a link that does not exist, as stem cells used in research do not come from aborted fetuses. Politicians, she argued, exploit "the ignorance of the public" to "instill fear" and advance their own causes.

    Now is as good a time as any to clear up the misconceptions surrounding the issue in order to help people such as Jason Armitage or Reeve.


    "We have a chance to take a giant stride forward for the good of all humanity" in the next election. "We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology."- Ron Reagan Jr.

  • #2
    Deaths put stem-cell vote in the spotlight

    Reeve, Reagan raise profile of divisive California plebiscite

    Monday, November 1, 2004 - Page A11

    WASHINGTON -- A deceased Republican president and a late Superman star are helping to turn a California plebiscite on stem-cell research into a divisive, high-profile debate on social values in the last days before the U.S. election.

    Ronald Reagan and Christopher Reeve have become the poster children for Proposition 71, a controversial measure on California's ballot that would allow the state to conduct human embryonic stem-cell research, despite the federal funding restrictions that U.S. President George W. Bush imposed three years ago on research involving embryos.

    If voters approve it tomorrow, Proposition 71 would provide as much as $3-billion (U.S.) in state bonds for stem-cell research and would fund a state-of-the-art medical institute.

    Supporters, led by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has broken party ranks to back the measure, say it will turn California into a world leader in this emerging research field, create jobs and boost the state's economy.

    Controversy has erupted across the United States over the proposition because some of the money would go toward embryonic research and would allow scientists to create and destroy embryos for experiments, known as therapeutic cloning.

    Many right-wing Christians oppose the measure fiercely, holding that such research is immoral because embryos are human beings. They fear California's proposition could open the door to human cloning. The initiative also is the first chance voters have had to cast ballots in any statewide plebiscite on stem-cell research.

    Ronald Reagan Jr., the former president's son, helped push stem-cell research to the top of the campaign agenda at the Democratic National Convention in July, when he stressed the need for fewer restrictions on it.

    ........... The Democratic presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry, promises to lift those restrictions if he is elected, an argument that has won the endorsement of advocacy groups, Nobel Prize laureates and celebrities such as the younger Mr. Reagan, his mother, Nancy, and the late Mr. Reeve, who died last month.

    Mr. Reeve and the elder Mr. Reagan, who was California's governor before he became president, were thrust into this year's campaign by Democrats and celebrity advocates who cited the men as examples of how Mr. Bush's restrictions on stem-cell research are blocking potential scientific breakthroughs.

    Mr. Reagan died of Alzheimer's disease in June. A horse-riding accident in 1995 left Mr. Reeve paralyzed from the neck down.

    The actor, who gained fame with his role as Superman, continues campaigning posthumously for the cause. He is featured in a television ad taped shortly before his death, asking California voters to support the proposition, which he says will give researchers the tools to find cures for spinal-cord injuries.

    As the United States watches the debate play out in California, a predominantly Democratic state, it has become clear that Proposition 71 is as much about political manoeuvring as it is about science, said Mark Peterson, chairman of the department of public policy at the University of California at Los Angeles.

    "This is the kind of issue that could have some traction in coming elections, and not to the benefit of Republicans nationally," he said.

    The plebiscite has sparked interest in Washington, where several senators and leading researchers met last month to debate the implications of Proposition 71 in front of about 100 lobbyists and journalists.

    Some politicians and leading researchers said the proposition should concern voters because its passage would allow scientists to create embryos for the purpose of destroying them. The proposition offers false hope that cures for serious diseases are around the corner, said William Hurlbut, a physician and professor in Stanford University's program in human biology.

    The slew of celebrity endorsements, including those of actor Michael J. Fox and Microsoft magnate Bill Gates, has helped drown out sobering questions and has turned the controversial measure into a cause supported by a majority of Americans in opinion polls, a researcher who studies public-opinion surveys says.

    "When it's talked about in the context of [Mr. Reagan's and Mr. Reeve's] deaths, the heavy emphasis is put on the cures," said Matthew Nisbet, a professor of communication at Ohio State University. "This collectively shapes public opinion in the aggregate."


    "We have a chance to take a giant stride forward for the good of all humanity" in the next election. "We can choose between the future and the past, between reason and ignorance, between true compassion and mere ideology."- Ron Reagan Jr.