Wednesday, July 14, 2004

The Stem Cell Debate

 Personal Account

Paralysis, Roman Reed, and a ban on stem-cell research

Lancet 2004; 364: 219
Don Reed c/o The Lancet diverdonreed@pacbell.net
Don C Reed is a retired schoolteacher and professional scuba diver. The author of five ocean books is currently working on TAKE A STAND: Roman Reed and the Secret Stem Cell Wars. He is the sponsor of the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Act.

What is it like, being paralysed? Try this. Using the insides of your wrists, lift a pencil and write your name. Set the pencil down.

Now imagine picking up (still with your wrists) a flexible rubber tube--and inserting that into your urinary tract--every time you need the rest room. Want to schedule a bowel movement? Allow 2 hours.

Before my son Roman Reed was paralysed in a college football accident, on Sept 10, 1994, I never really thought about people in wheelchairs: about the dangers, hassles, and humiliations they face every day.

Roman considers himself fortunate. He can breathe without a machine; he does not live on charity; his girlfriend (now wife) Terri stood by him. Recovering the partial use of his upper arms, "Rome" can transfer himself from bed to wheelchair. He drives an adapted van, holds down a part-time job, continues his education. Defying doctors' expectations, he became a father. In his wheelchair, he coaches Roman Jr's soccer team. He lives life fiercely.

But I am his father, and I see what he goes through...

The latest issue of the medical journal, The Lancet, is devoted to stem cell research.  Access is free for the editorials and for the personal account excerpted above.  You need a paid subscription to view the original research articles, such as Functional antigen-presenting leucocytes derived from human embryonic stem cells in vitro,  but the editorials are more interesting for the nonspecialist. 

In this post, I point out some of the more interesting editorials in The Lancet, and discuss the course of public debate on the subject of embryonic stem cell research.  Read the rest at The Rest of the Story