Hardly a week goes by that people don't ask me, "Have you ever talked with Christopher Reeve? I saw him the other day on television and … " People are curious about where I stand regarding the paralyzed actor's hope for a cure through what he calls therapeutic cloning. After all, I'm disabled. Don't I want a cure? I would love to walk. But 35 years of quadriplegia since a diving accident in 1967 has honed my perspective. I look at the broader implications of medical research as a double-edged sword.
The Christopher Reeve Research Foundation aggressively promotes research using stem cells derived from human embryos that are clones or frozen discards from fertility clinics. But I want people to know that not all Americans with disabilities believe in using human embryos.
I have served on the National Council on Disability for two different administrations. I've led a national consortium of 80 disability organizations in my role as president of the Christian Council on Persons with Disabilities. I've interacted with thousands of disabled individuals who strongly believe that life is sacred even in this brave new world of biotech research, where humans and their genes may be cloned, copied, and altered. In the course of my ministry, I'm asked many probing questions about cloning and stem-cell research. Here are some of my responses, which contrast strongly with the views of Christopher Reeve.
You reject using embryonic stem cells for research, and champion the use of adult stem cells. Why?
Most Americans, out of a mixed sense of sympathy and awe, look at people in wheelchairs and think: Who would want to deny them a cure? No one better understands the desire for a cure than I do, as a quadriplegic who has lived in a wheelchair for ...