Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Stem cell bill marks future of medicine

Imagine a world where diseases could be halted in their tracks. Imagine a world where suffering and pain fall to the side of the road to make room for hope and joy. Imagine a world where the world’s greatest problems could be cured.

Such a world will probably never exist, but we have moved a step closer to realizing a dream that so many have only wished to exist.

On Monday, March 9, President Barack Obama signed off on a piece of legislation that effectively overturned President Bush’s decision to ban federal funding for stem cell research. It is a decision that ends an era of lost hope and dreams for many.

Stem cell research has always been a touchy subject, as two sides of the argument claim moral ground. The supporters of stem cell research say that it is necessary in order to improve the quality of life for those that have been stricken with disease or have a disability. The critics claim that using stem cells is immoral, calling it nothing short of murder to breed stem cell lines to improve life and not let the embryo become life itself.

These days, old embryos are used to create the stem cell lines. Many view this as murder of innocent life. What is often left out of this side of the argument is that these embryos are usually from fertility clinics and would be destroyed anyway. Now that would be murder.

Instead of wasting an embryo that wouldn’t develop, stem cell lines allow the embryo to be something.

In its own way, it is allowed to survive. While the embryo will never develop into a functional human being, they give back life to already-existing humans.

How would this work? According to a news report on, ‘Scientists hope to harness them so they can create replacement tissues to treat a variety of diseases ‘- such as new insulin-producing cells for diabetics, cells that could help those with Parkinson’s disease or maybe even Alzheimer’s, or new nerve connections to restore movement after spinal injury.’

While the use of stem cells used to be an issue that fell along the party lines, it is no longer that way. Many years ago, the supporters were Democrats and the critics were Republicans.

However, things have changed. Life taught us the lesson that life itself does not operate on the basis of party lines.

One example of this is the case of the late President Reagan. Reagan was a Republican. However, when Reagan developed advanced Alzheimer’s disease, former First Lady Nancy Reagan argued in support of stem cell research. She would continue to do so throughout the Bush presidency.

I am all for stem cell research. The question that must be asked is, how valuable is life? We are compromising a person’s life that we know is definitely alive for the sake of something that is scientifically alive.

If given the chance, would I utilize stem cell therapy so that my brother could walk, talk and see? Yes, I would. If given the chance, would I utilize stem cell therapy to see Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox be rid of Parkinson’s disease? Yes, I would. Would I take a chance on stem cell therapy to help ease the suffering of so many that silently beg for their lives to be given back to them? Yes, I would.

Having grown up in an environment where I dealt with the issue of disabilities, I paid close attention to the story of Christopher Reeves. If you are not well-versed with his story, you should be.

Reeves was a well-known actor, most notable for his role as Superman in the TV series. In 1995, Reeves fell off of a horse and was paralyzed. His efforts to regain even the slightest amount of movement in his body is one of the most courageous fights I have ever seen a human give. There was even a tear-jerking commercial in which Reeves walks onto a stage, a symbol of hope. Tragically, Reeves died in 2004 before his dream could be fulfilled.

We don’t know what the future holds, but we can try to foresee what it will look like. If the path towards stem cell research continues, we may see a future where people with Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, cerebral palsy or paralysis can once again live out their lives to the fullest extent. As President Obama noted, ‘Medical miracles do not happen by accident.’

What has been achieved here is progress. However, as Robert F. Kennedy once stated, ‘Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.’

Though the legislation has been enacted again, there is still a long road ahead for stem cell research. It is a fight that many are willing to take part of.

Matt Kushi is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].

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