Way to go, Frist, but I still don’t like you

I was thrilled to see Republican Senator Bill Frist support stem cell research despite his party’s radical and inhumane stance on the subject.  Frist last week, despite Bush’s call for solidarity on the issue, publicly endorsed government funding for human embryonic stem cell research.

Stem cell research is of great importance to humanity (oh, and, by proxy and despite evidence to the contrary, that does include Americans).  The potential medical applications, when considered wholly, boggle the mind, as they offer conceivable treatments — dare I say solutions? — to ailments such as “spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s and other diseases.”

I take pleasure in the understanding that this flies in the face of the current Republican stance.  That platform has been defined by the far-right conservative Christian movement (what separation of church and state?) in an overreaching extension of the “right to life” movement.  I do not agree with abortion, but it’s also not my choice as I’m not a woman and can’t possibly understand any of the considerations that might result in the possibility of an abortion.  I don’t believe it’s the church’s business and do not believe it’s any man’s business.  It is a medical, psychological and emotional decision that only women can make and, therefore, judge.

As a heart-lung transplant surgeon and, more generally, a doctor, Frist knows firsthand the medical repercussions of such research.  “It isn’t just a matter of faith, it’s a matter of science,” he said in a Senate speech, going on to say that “the president’s policy should be modified.”

When asked what Bush thought of Frist’s announcement, about which Frist called Bush the evening before so as not to surprise him, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, “The president said, ‘You’ve got to vote your conscience.'”

Nancy Reagan, who has been an ardent supporter of this kind of research, released a statement saying, “Thank you, Dr. Frist, for standing up for America’s patients.”

The conservative Christian movement, of course, lashed out at Frist.  Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said, “He cannot be pro-life and pro-embryonic stem cell funding.  Nor can he turn around and expect widespread endorsement from the pro-life community if he should decide to run for president.”

That’s it, Mr. Religious Man, hit him below the belt.  Bet you didn’t learn that move from the bible…

Although this does not change my negative impression of Frist due to his involvement in the gay marriage debate, it has diminished my dislike of him.  You know how much of a science buff I am, so I take great pleasure and interest in this event.  I am always on the side of true science, regardless of its implications to any religious dogma or societal norm.  When something has the promise of relieving so much suffering by so many different people battling such a wide variety of ailments and diseases, the scientist in me takes great offense at anyone who would use radical religious fundamentalism to stand in the way, essentially prolonging the pain and ensuring the death of so many people worldwide simply based on the pronouncements of cultist mythology.

With regards to stem cell research, I believe the science is important on a global scale, bringing with it the possibility of diminishing — or even abolishing — the suffering associated with medical conditions which even today remain elusive in all but the most cursory of treatments.  These diseases bring suffering and death to people across the planet.  How can we not, especially at the federal level, not support and invest in it?  The answer is that we can’t — we must support it.

Kudos to Frist for stepping out of line and going with his conscience instead of the party line.

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