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President Reagan and Christopher Reed were two very popular Americans who died this year after protracted illness with chronic medical conditions that, many believe, could be cured with stem cell technology. Many other health conditions like diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s disease and cancer of blood cells are amenable to being cured by implanting modified stem cells into affected patients to restore functions of defective or failed body organs. Improved understanding of sub-cellular biology and interactions between living cells and many protein molecules that regulate and facilitate routine body functions have radically altered the way we think of the future of medicine. Instead of giving medications to correct deficiency of insulin which causes diabetes mellitus, for example, stem cells could be modified to make insulin and then implanted into patients. This method offers a permanent cure for diabetes while the best approach today is to manage the problem for life with multiple daily injections of insulin or doses of tablets to control blood sugar level.

Christopher Reed, whose role as "Superman" in one of Hollywood blockbuster movies made a household name, accidentally broke his neck and severed his spinal cord in 1995 during an equestrian sporting event. He lived the past 9 years without normal feeling and ability to use all his limbs or control his body excretions which many of us take for granted. Preliminary results from stem cell research show that spinal cord injury, similar to the one sustained by Mr. Reed, can be repaired and thus cured with modified stem cell implant to regenerate the damaged segment. He spent the rest of his life crusading for advancement of stem cell research with the hope of helping himself and countless others to obtain cure for their disabling illnesses. Former US President, Ronald Reagan and the legendary heavyweight boxing champion, Mohammed Ali, were both diagnosed with chronic brain degenerative conditions that can be cured through application of stem cell technology. Hopes of many, who anticipate to benefit from this new technology, shall be dashed if stem cell research is not speeded up to help them before it is too late.

But the Bush administration has implemented policies that impede progress in stem cell technology by denying federal funds for almost all research programs that include work on embryonic stem cells. By tightly regulating embryonic stem cell research, the Bush administration is imposing a blockade on widespread and concerted effort needed to unravel the many benefits of this new promising technology. Human embryos, which are currently unutilized by many infertility clinics, are frozen and stored for decades before being discarded. With proper consent from their owners, these surplus embryos could be used to generate many stem cell lines that can be used to seek cures or relief for many chronic diseases that afflict us today. The Bush policy, which is informed by conservative viewpoint, which regards frozen embryos as living beings, is designed solely to pander to the sentiments of the President's political base that is dead against abortion. Deploying frozen embryonic cells for stem cell research has been couched by the President’s campaign spinners as murder of living humans, an act which ought not to be promoted with federal government funds.

Mr. Bush has personally called the use of embryonic stem cells for medical research as an ethical dilemma since it involves destroying one type of life to save the other. To the President and his core political supporters, a clump of embryonic cells that were created and grown in a laboratory dish has the same human rights as the average citizen. This absurd viewpoint makes little sense except for the fact that it plays into the hands of the so-called “pro-lifers” who also interpret use of embryonic stem cells as a form of abortion to which they are opposed politically. A Commander-in-Chief, who had no second thoughts about ordering his troops to storm into Iraq against wiser counsel by notable world leaders, wishes to tell the American electorate that he is too caring and sensitive a man not to spill a laboratory petridish containing human embryonic stem cells. The hypocrisy in this stance is quite easy to see.

Mr. Reed’s death, only 3 weeks before the November presidential election, has brought the emotive subject of embryonic stem cell research back into the center stage of the ongoing electioneering campaign. The Democratic Party presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry, has pledged to terminate the denial of federal funds for stem embryonic cell research if elected to the White House. Opinion polls indicate that the electorate favors reversal of current policies on stem cell research by a margin of 2:1. It is not only that the science and medical professions disdain President Bush’s policy against stem cell research, but also the average citizen has come to understand that impeding research in this field, just to placate the extreme right wing of the Republican party, is the wrong way to go. Despite the fact that President Bush refuses to acknowledge any mistakes since his past 4 years in the White House, many Americans regard his policy on stem cell research as a wrong decision for someone who ought to lead in seeking effective and affordable health care for those who need it most. Many are beginning to wonder how Mr. Bush, who is seeking another term in office, can reverse his slipping popularity with the voters if he is perceived as being wrong on the Iraq war, economy, national security and also on stem cell research.

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