My mom has Parkinson’s, or at least that is the latest theory the doctors have given her. Honestly, they really don’t know what is making her weak and shake. She has to walk with a cane. There have been many times when she was too weak or shaking too much to pick up one of her grandsons, my two boys. She fell and broke her arm carrying my oldest because she tripped over a rock and was too weak to hold herself up.

My grandmother died with alzheimer’s. She used to cry in the nursing home wanting to go home, not knowing she had been in the nursing home for several years. One of the most difficult moments in my life was watching my mom crying while she brushed my grandmother’s hair, who was ambivalent to anything going on around her.

Now that I have established my personal connections to these diseases, can I say anything I want about embryonic stem cell research without worrying if someone will challenge my stance? Should my mom be able to go on TV and beg politicians to stop fighting over ESCR and spend money on stem cell research that has actually brought about cures, then question the morality of any who would dare oppose her beliefs?

Having personal experience with debilitating diseases, I was angry over Michael J. Fox’s ads against Jim Talent and Michael Steele. (If you haven’t seen them go and watch the ads.)

I was angry at the Democrats for exploiting Fox and his disease. I was angry at Fox for exploiting his own condition. Those ads are misleading on so many levels, apart from any controversy over Fox “faking.” (That is useless in this debate.) I was angry because they exploit people like my mom without even knowing her or her condition.

Fox, through the Democratic party, established himself as the spokesperson of people with genetic diseases, particularly Parkinson’s. I know plenty of people who vehemently disagree with Fox on this position, my mom included. They would rather suffer through their disease than to take a cure derived from a destroyed embryo. They would rather see money spent on more promising, ethical treatments.

The ads never mention embryonic stem cell research. Fox accuses the Republican politicians of opposing “hope” and “cures” from stem cell research. I guess someone forgot the word “embryonic” in the script. That is particularly odd in the Maryland race, where only one candidate has voted against stem cell research – Ben Cardin, Steele’s opponent.

Out of a purely political motive, Cardin voted against funding stem cell research because it did not include ESCR. He voted against federal funding for possible cures – cures that have been tested and used successfully in humans.

The purpose of the ad is twofold: 1) to oppose Talent’s Senate bid and 2) to end the ESCR debate through emotional exploitation. Dean Barnett, at Hugh, explains:

The ad’s aim is to make us feel so bad about Fox’s condition that logical debate is therefore precluded. You either agree with Fox, or you sadistically endorse his further suffering as Fox accuses Jim Talent of doing.

Barnett was then attacked for his lack of compassion and tolerance. Bloggers claimed he and others on the right were mad because they couldn’t “attack handicapped people.” So Barnett had to inform those ignorant of his condition that he too was part of the new protected class. He has suffered from Cystic Fibrosis his entire life.

He is correct to say that personal experience does not automatically equal rightness, in fact, sometimes it clouds it:

Michael J. Fox has no particular monopoly on morality. Quite the contrary, his past admission that he appeared before a Senate subcommittee without having used his medication suggests an unbecoming moral flexibility. This is brutally manipulative behavior, and I’ve seen many ill people use similar means to get what they want. Such conduct is contemptible.

While I believe the ads to be reprehensible, I do feel sorry for Fox. I am sorry that he believes the only hope he has lies in the destruction of human life. I am sorry that he has been blinded by the bright political lights to the point where he can no longer see options out there which are much more ethical and promising that should be pursued.

At the Evangelical Outpost, Joe Carter has an excellent piece about the pervasive ignorance about embryonic stem cell research. He notes that much of the oft-lauded “potential” of ESCR is offset by the dangers of tumor growth. He quotes James Sherley, associate professor of biological engineering at MIT, who said, “figuring out how to use human embryonic stem cells directly by transplantation into patients is tantamount to solving the cancer problem.”

Carter also links to a Washington Post story where researchers injected embryonic stem cells into the brains of rat’s suffering from the equivalent of Parkinson’s disease. For many rats it appeared to initially help until the injected cells started turning into pre-cancerous cells. The scientists killed the rats before the cancer developed and warned that any experiments on humans would have to be done “very cautiously.”

The article then makes a statement is passing, as if it was a known fact, but which has been either unknown or ignored by proponents of ESCR. The piece says, “Scientists have long feared that human embryonic stem cells could turn into tumors, because of their pliability.”

Really? Someone should tell the Democratic Party and Michael J. Fox. They are pinning their electoral hopes on it, while he is pinning his health on it. It is honestly a shame to allow yourself to be exploited for a cause that in reality offers you little, if any, actual hope.

Issues of morality should be present in this debate, but not questions of it being acceptable to object to Fox’s plea. The morals should be questioned of those who have purposely hid damaging information about ESCR and those who exploit the sick to further their political goals.