2008 World Stem Cell Summit in Madison, Wisconsin

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This week stem cell scientists from across the globe are meeting at the University of Wisconsin at Madison to discuss a multitude of issues they face including the scientific, business, legal, ethical and regulatory issues these doctors, clinicians and researchers face in their work.

Last night we took my dad out to dinner at a great deli in San Diego, D.Z. Akins. (Try it next January/AALS; you will love it). My dad’s hands and mouth shake so badly now that he could hardly enjoy his meal. He is embarrassed by his inabilities so he just stops eating. He says he is not that hungry and his pants get looser and looser. My father has Parkinson’s Disease and it has rendered him so disabled that he can no longer live at home. Last month we had to move him into a residential care facility and it was one of the most difficult things my sisters and I have had to do. Every time I visit him he wants to know when he can move back home.

Scientists at the World Stem Cell summit have stated that the future of stem cell research in Madison and throughout the nation depends upon the 2008 presidential election. The conference has a number of disease specific panels including spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disease, blindness and diseases of the eye where they will discuss the science, foundation, industry and advocacy perspectives.

While packing my father’s bags last month was challenging, the most difficult thing I have had to do is watch my mother die of terminal cancer. She fought her cancer every day for thirty-six months with courage, grace, and dignity and more strength than a herd of elephants. At the end when there was very little hope for her, she even elected to enter a clinical trial. Because of her clinical trial participation, I have learned much about the amazing recent advances in cancer research. I have met two year plus cancer survivors who were given only months to live. I have met the vibrant young son of a cancer survivor who survived the same deadly Stage IV cancer my mother did not. I have witnessed the enthusiasm and commitment of the research doctors and clinicians who are fighting daily battles against cancer trying to win the war. A war they believe with support and resources they can win.

A number of top researchers at the 2008 World Stem Cell Summit have made the following statement: “Supporting all forms of stem cell research is in the best, long-term interests of a broad spectrum of patients with complex and debilitating diseases and injuries.”

Obviously, there are scientists, doctors and researchers who will disagree with this statement. I support their right to disagree and I encourage them strongly to use any methods available to battle these terrible diseases. I am certain there are individuals who do not believe in embryonic or any other types of stem cell research. I support their right to have this position. And I know that embryonic or other types of stem cell research do not hold the cures for all diseases and may not cure any disease.

However, support for stem cell research, including embryonic stem cells, is an issue very near and dear to me and my family and too many of my chosen sisters who are suffering and fighting the war against cardiovascular disease (responsible for 40% of female deaths; 1 out of every 2.6 female deaths), breast cancer (1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 in 30 will die from breast cancer), lung cancer (85% of nonsmokers with lung cancer are women and it is the most deadly cancer for women and men) and colon cancer (third most common cause of cancer deaths in women even though if diagnosed early through a colonoscopy it has a 95% survival rate). (Source.)

I want to have a clear understanding of the positions of the presidential and vice presidential candidates on stem cell research, including their positions on embryonic stem cell research. I am not interested in artful manipulation of words to minimize the clarity and distort the message they are attempting not to deliver. With 40 plus days left until the election, time is of the essence to state their positions on this and other critical issues not to misinterpret and misstate their opponent’s positions. We deserve no less. And in loving memory of my mother, I demand it.

–Francine Lipman

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