I'm attracted to the offbeat news story, the little nice science and/or cultural sideshows that tend to sneak by the main stream media and then years later actually become the news. Digital satellite radio for one, is a shining example, as I was reading about plans for this way back in 1992. I'm not sure I'm real thrilled with the progression so far, but I am still very hopeful that the predictions of a worldwide radio satellite system (one that could let me subscribe and listen to radio stations in my car from Australia, Yemen and everyplace in between without the aid of a internet connection on my end and an internet web broadcast on theirs, but just use existing satellite technology) in the next 3 years. I'm one of those people who find little stories on the side, make notes about the really interesting ones, and follow them through to the fruition (and the occasional defeat). It's wonderful to see the world progress.
So it should come as no surprise that I think that this little news item from The New Scientist (which does some fascinating articles, by the way, much in the way that Psychology Today does) is that same kind of future benchmark article. Having worked or been involved in some capacity in the medical field almost all of my life, I have seen both the advances and the pitfalls of the modern science, especially in the US health care system. I have lost one relative to a terminal illness because of an organ's stoppage, and have almost lost a battle of my own fighting the cancer of another. There are so many different research avenues available to us here, techniques and theories that need funding and political support from the public to get through...avenues that will not get thoroughly tested for widespread application unless they do get the public's support.
I am a believer that stem cells can be developed and used to help a variety of illnesses and perhaps prolong the lives of those suffering into something far more desireable, something far more human. While I understand the religious and ethical arguments of using stem cells in disease cures (cells that can only currently be taken from discarded human placentas and is heavily restricted by the Bush Administration here in the US), I also believe that the potential outcomes far outweigh the objections. I also note that those arguing the most vehemently against the use of stem cell research are the ones who've never had to deal with a 'no alternative options available' situation in their own personal health care. When you or a loved one are involved, in very few instances do you not want to try all possible treatments for a cure. Until you walk a day in my shoes (or those of my deceased father, who loved life more than anything else, but suffered a long decline for more than 20 years on kidney dialysis as he had 'no other options available' to him), don't presume you have the right to tell me that one placenta is worth more than one human life. Especially don't presume to tell me that the medical research that could have saved my father should not be funded because a placenta of an unwanted child is 'worth' more than he was and that placenta, which will be biomedically incinerated most likely immediately after its delivery otherwise, should not be used to help those living.
Perhaps some hard-working mice (and in the future, mens' better friends, the testes) can help society get around this political and ethical quagmire about using stem cells to save lives:
Mice testicles yield 'ethical' stem cells .