Looking with Paraplegic & Quadriplegic Eyes
The Worlds Wheelchair Culture
08.11.06

LOCAL COMMENT: Two painful injuries -- one to body, one to hope
BY DANIEL HEUMANN
From the Detroit Free Press Inc. August 10, 2006

This week marked the fifth anniversary of President George W. Bush's restrictions on using federal tax dollars to create new embryonic stem cell lines. In just days, I will mark the 21st anniversary of the car accident that left me a paraplegic in a wheelchair.

Which anniversary is worse for me? Aug. 9. My accident happened. There is nothing I can do about it. I live for today and hope for tomorrow. That's what made Aug. 9 so painful for me. My hope for tomorrow is being jeopardized by the minority in this country. The president's decision was wrong and should not have happened. When the majority of his scientific advisers told him this was the wrong decision, he did not heed their advice.

On July 18, the president was given a second opportunity to ease the suffering and prevent Americans from dying in the future. Instead, he used his first presidential veto to turn back the clocks on science. He surrounded himself with snowflake babies and their parents to bolster his argument against destroying embryos for the sake of saving people's lives. This made me angry, but mostly sad.

According to U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., only 128 of these embryos have been adopted in two years. I wish more people adopted frozen embryos, but they don't, and the president should not distort the issue.

The majority of frozen embryos will be discarded as medical waste. Many in the pro-life movement, including Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, believe that embryonic stem cells could very likely be the answer to curing or investigating the reason for diseases like diabetes, ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, MS, etc. He believes these embryos should be used to save people's lives and alleviate human suffering.

Why couldn't the president have followed Hatch and other pro-life lawmakers who are in favor of this research going forward? He has never picked up his veto pen once during his administration. Why now?

The stem cell war has now moved to the states, like Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, South Dakota and Missouri, where there will be a ballot initiative this fall. In November we can let the president and our legislators know what we think about their decisions.

The fight to overturn Michigan laws restricting embryonic stem cell research is heating up. On July 26, Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced an online petition (www.michigan.gov/stemcell) encouraging the Legislature to ease restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.

My three wishes for November: Granholm wins. The Democrats take back the Legislature. They save Michigan citizens millions of dollars in 2008 by not needing a ballot initiative to overturn these draconian laws during a presidential election.

Michigan has the labs and the scientists to be a leader in this field. When they return from their summer vacations, legislators should take the handcuffs off our scientists.

DANIEL HEUMANN, of Ann Arbor, is vice president of the Daniel Heumann Fund for Spinal Cord Research. Write to him in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 600 W. Fort St., Detroit 48226 or oped@freepress.com.

Copyright 2006 Detroit Free Press Inc.