Tiny Cells, Big Debate
In November of 1998, two things happened that put Parkinson's in the headlines.
One was Michael J. Fox stepping forward and revealing his struggle with the disease, and the other had to do with a research breakthrough: the discovery of embryonic stem cells as a potential route to a cure. While the first sparked both admiration and support, the second proved far more contentious. Because embryonic stem cells can become any tissue in the body, they've been the source of enormous hope for fixing certain conditions, Parkinson's among them. But because the source of the cells are tiny frozen embryos left over from fertility clinics, it's also been the source of controversy, and within a few years, President Bush established strictly limited federal funding guidelines for embryonic stem cell research (guidelines that the Obama administration is expected to change ... keep your eye on the headlines in the coming weeks).
Like so many topics in our political culture, this debate has often been polarizing, colored by rhetoric instead of reason. But two of the most articulate commentators on this topic are columnists Michael Kinsley and Charles Krauthammer. Kinsley has Parkinson's and wrote a wonderfully candid column about his own "coming out" in 2001 that also includes his views on stem cells as an option we can't afford not to explore. Krauthammer suffers from a spinal cord injury that might also someday benefit from embryonic stem cell research, but he raises thoughtful concerns about the moral issues. While he thinks the guidelines established by the Bush administration were too narrow, he worries that we may be rushing into very murky terrain. Here's one of his columns on the subject.
You'll hear from both of them in our film -- it's now less than two weeks to our online launch! -- but I would also encourage you to browse their writings. Their views are worth exploring beyond what we were able to fit in our 60 minute show.
And as always, we're interested in hearing what you think as well. Where do you come down on this important debate?