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FIRST-PERSON: I’m with my dad on stem cell research

WASHINGTON (BP)–The media continues to report that the Reagan “family” is in favor of embryonic stem cell research, when the truth is that two members of the family have been longtime foes of this process of manufacturing human beings — my dad, Ronald Reagan during his lifetime, and I.

The media should keep in mind that we are also members of the Reagan “family,” and my father, as I do, opposed the creation of human embryos for the sole purpose of using their stem cells as possible medical cures.

Moreover, using the widely promoted and thoroughly discredited argument that embryonic stem cell research can lead to a cure of Alzheimer’s disease, the media and proponents of embryonic stem cell research have suggested that had the research been done a long time ago, my dad might have avoided the ordeal he endured. This is junk science at its worst.

As William Clark, dad’s national security adviser, interior secretary and one of my dad’s closest friends and aides, wrote in a recent op-ed piece in The New York Times, my father’s “suffering under Alzheimer’s disease was tragic, and we should do everything we can that is ethically proper to help others afflicted with it. But I have no doubt that he would have urged our nation to look to adult stem cell research — which has yielded many clinical successes — and away from the destruction of developing human lives, which has yielded none.” And he warned, “Those who would trade on Ronald Reagan’s legacy should first consider his own words.”

Here’s what my father said way back in 1983: “My administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning.”

To make matters worse, those arguing for embryonic stem cells have embarked on a campaign of disinformation, claiming that there are scientific reasons for believing that their research can be expected to lead to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

Listen to what Ronald D.G. McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, told The Washington Post: “People need a fairy tale,” he said, explaining why scientists have allowed society to believe wrongly that embryonic stem cells are likely to effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease. He added, “Maybe that’s unfair, but they need a story line that’s relatively simple to understand.”

A story line that is a flat out lie.

Writing in the Weekly Standard, lawyer, ethicist and human life advocate Wesley J. Smith reported that, “Researchers have apparently known for some time that embryonic stem cells will not be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s, because as two researchers told a Senate subcommittee in May, it is a ‘whole brain disease,’ rather than a cellular disorder (such as Parkinson’s). This has generally been kept out of the news. But now, Washington Post correspondent Rick Weiss, has blown the lid off of the scam, reporting that while useful abstract information might be gleaned about Alzheimer’s through embryonic stem cell research, ‘stem cell experts confess … that of all the diseases that may be someday cured by embryonic stem cell treatments, Alzheimer’s is among the least likely to benefit.'”

People such as Nancy Reagan, however, have been allowed to believe otherwise — “a distortion,” Weiss writes, that “is not being aggressively corrected by scientists.” Why? The false story line helps generate public support for the biotech political agenda. As Weiss noted, “It [Nancy Reagan’s statement in support of ESCR] is the kind of advocacy that researchers have craved for years, and none wants to slow its momentum.”

Unlike the hyped embryonic stem cell research, adult stem cell research is already paying dividends. According to Michael Fumento, one of the nation’s most skilled debunkers of junk science, “Over the horizon are so-called adult stem cells (ASCs), extracted from people of any age and from umbilical cords and placentas. Not only don’t they carry the moral baggage of embryonic stem cells (ESCs), but research with them is much further along.”

Fumento adds, “Unfortunately, embryonic stem cell researchers have so powerful a PR machine that many influential people don’t even know there’s an alternative.”

Note to the media: Next time you write about the “family,” remember both dad and me. It’s our family too.
Michael Reagan, eldest son of President Ronald Reagan and a syndicated talk show host and columnist, is a board member of the John Douglas French Alzheimer’s Foundation. Copyright protected. For reprint rights, contact Cagle Cartoons, Inc., at 1-800-696-7561.

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  • Michael Reagan