robs you of your dignity," she said. "It robs you of everything."
National Parkinson's Foundation estimates that 1.5 million Americans
currently suffer from the disease - and that 15 to 20 percent of
those patients are relatives of other Parkinson's victims.
knows this statistic all too well: Her father is the third member
of her family to be diagnosed with the disorder. Her grandmother
fought the disease for twenty years before her death. Her aunt was
diagnosed four years before she died, from cancer, at the age of
the battle over stem-cell technology escalated this week, Utahns
like the Rudmans were watching the developments with a particularly
a prime-time address Thursday, Bush offered limited support for
the controversial technology. The president said he would approve
funding for research on stem cells already extracted from human
embryos. He vowed to oppose experiments on embryos yet to be destroyed.
president's announcement came after months of wrestling with a scientific
issue - whether it's embryonic or adult stem cells that merit government
funds - and a political issue, whether the government should be
funding such controversial research at all.
Rudman, however, the debate is neither scientific nor political.
It's personal: Will this budding field of research lead to the cure
her family needs?
Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, says that it was with families like the Rudmans
in mind that he stood before a Senate appropriations committee July
18 in support of stem-cell research. An outspoken advocate for the
anti-abortion movement, Hatch has also emerged as a leading voice
in favor of stem-cell technology.
talking about Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, being able to put
cells in the brain that might cure those problems," Hatch said.
"Why would we allow those conditions to exist without trying
to get the very best research done that we can?"
says that withholding federal funding from stem-cell laboratories
would hobble the push for medical treatments. Cures for Parkinson's
and other diseases might still arise, but they would take much longer
to do so. The bulk of the research, says Hatch, would take place
in foreign laboratories without the aid of American universities.
American academic research is far and away the best research in
the world," Hatch said. "If we refuse to allow them to
participate, to all these people with diseases that could be reversed
with these miraculous cells, we're saying, 'Get lost.' And I don't
think that's right."
position on stem-cell research has earned the senator both adulation
and contempt. While many with ill family members have applauded
his efforts, notable members of Hatch's conservative base have spoken
out against him. They say that when stem cells are extracted from
embryos, a human life is destroyed. They also take issue with Hatch's
belief that life begins in the womb.
a microscopic embryo formed in a Petri dish is a human life worth
protecting, says Hadley Arkes, a respected pro-life advocate and
professor of Political Science at Amherst College in Massachusetts.
begins with the union of the sperm and the egg, with the genetic
identity of two gametes," Arkes said. "When you were that
little zygote, that little zygote contained all that was you: your
height, your coloring, inclinations of temperament."
who say life begins at conception," said the professor, "are
simply reciting the facts of embryology."
like many pro-life proponents in Utah, feels Hatch's support of
stem-cell research marks an inexplicable shift in position. "Something
must have gotten into the senator's air conditioning," Arkes
said, "because he is fumbling into deep incoherence."
says he respects the positions of fellow pro-lifers who disagree
with him on this issue, but he maintains that the abortion analogy
think their position is a principled position," the senator
said. "But to try to make this an abortion situation, when
what you're trying to do is facilitate and extend the lives of people
who suffer - I just think that's wrong."
research) is a far cry from abortion, which is destroying life,
regardless of what you call it," Hatch said.
many in Utah, though, the debate over stem-cell research is actually
more complicated than an issue of whether it facilitates or destroys
life. Many people are hesitant to support the research because they
fear it conflicts with their religious beliefs.
group includes Rudman.
has been active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
from early in childhood. Though there appears a chance that Parkinson's
will affect either her or her four brothers, she remains conflicted
in her support of the research.
think I'm clouded by having the Parkinson's in front of me,"
Rudman said. "Like I was saying to (my husband) Tony, strip
that away and how would we feel, being as pro-life as we are?"
we didn't hear that stem cells could affect Parkinson's, then I'd
think, well, destroying embryos - that's no good. I don't want it
to morally conflict with my LDS beliefs," she said. "It's
hard for me to know how to feel."
Bills, official spokesperson for the LDS Church, has declared the
church's official position on stem-cell research. But the July 5
statement takes a neutral stance on the technology.
statement reads: "While the First Presidency and the Quorum
of the Twelve Apostles have not taken a position at this time on
the newly emerging field of stem-cell research, it merits cautious
scrutiny. The proclaimed potential to provide cures and treatments
for many serious diseases needs careful and continuing study by
conscientious, qualified investigators.
with any emerging new technology, there are concerns that must be
addressed," Bills' statement says. "Scientific and religious
viewpoints both demand that strict moral and ethical guidelines
- who, like Rudman, is also a devout member of the LDS Church -
says he wrestled with the religious implications of stem-cell research
and prayed about them. In the end, he says, he found a comfort in
his decision to support the technology.
wouldn't our Father in heaven want us to utilize these cells for
the benefit of extending and facilitating the life of suffering
mankind?" he said.
LDS families who worry stem-cell research conflicts with their religious
beliefs, Hatch advises them to study the Church's official statement.
Church has said you should approach it with caution," he said.
Funding stem-cell research would be the government's chance to impose
strict regulations on the science - regulations, the senator believes,
that are concordant with the Church's position of caution.
on Capitol Hill adjourned last week for summer vacation. When they
return in early September, the Senate is expected to debate a compromise
bill by Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Frist's bill would allow federal
funding for embryonic stem-cell technology and create an advisory
panel to oversee the research.
even if the bill were approved today, Elizabeth Rudman knows that
research might come too late for her father.
"I don't know if it could help him
at this point," Rudman said. Yet she adds that she is still hoping
scientists find a Parkinson's cure for the future. "If they would
have something to go by for the next generation, oh," she said,
"it'd mean everything."