Saturday, September 03, 2005

Being (a little) careful of Jerry Lewis

At first blush that seems kind of obvious. His overpowering style of showmanship is passing out of popularity at warp speed. But I can't help admiring his possessed combination of showman and fundraiser: the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon is one of my guilty pleasures.

I've watched for years. In college, I started Christmas sewing projects that weekend, because the telethon could run in the background and needed watching only when someone famous showed up or hearts were being warmed. I would pin patterns or crochet and sniffle whenever a particularly touching family would be interviewed. And it was fun and unreal to turn on the TV in the middle of the night to watch hokey nightclub magic acts or roller-skating dancers. It's not as showy as it used to be, but there are wisps of that old Vegas-style entertainment.

But I wondered what their position was on embryonic stem cell research or abortion. I was more than a little alarmed when they ignored my polite email questions, sent directly to their "ask us a question" link. So I looked through the Muscular Dystrophy Association website.

In short, they are charting a very narrow and studiously neutral course through the waters on these subjects. They are doing tons of research on mouse embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. But they are also using embryonic stem cells, although these are legally derived from the existing cell lines on which President Bush allowed continued work. They report on other countries' embryonic stem cell research without offering an opinion pro or con.

MDA is sympathetic to the tremendous pressure put on people diagnosed with inheritable neuromuscular diseases to abort their babies if they are diagnosed in utero. But they themselves take no position on abortion, pro or con, keeping their skirts out of the waters of public opinion.

So if you find any research, even on existing "cell lines," in embryonic stem cell research morally repellent, you might want to give your money to another organization. I already put something in a "Fill the Boot" campaign, but that will be it.

This exercise didn't prove much, did it? But I think we have to go through these reviews of long-admired organizations like MDA, to make sure that they haven't altered their policies to include abortion as an "unfortunate necessity " and embryo destruction as "exciting medical research."

So I did it for you. Sorry I can't tell you when the roller-skating couples will foxtrot on 30 square feet of stage to "Night and Day."


The Stem Cell Extremist said...

I wrote to the MDA question email as well. I did recieve a polite email back. Here is what the lady said:

Although the vast majority of MDA's stem cell research involves "adult-derived" cells (from sources such as bone marrow), a small number of MDA-funded projects do use embryonic stem cells.

We understand and respect the feelings of those who feel they cannot support research with these cells. You should know that you can still support incredibly important MDA programs such as summer camp, clinic visits and wheel chair purchases, which cost the Association more than $70 million annually, by marking clearly on your pledge card "for services only."

That "for services only" would make contributing to them okay. I wouldn't "fill the boot" either though because there is no way to clearly mark what your money should be used for.

Therese Z said...

Thank you for sharing their response! I don't know why they didn't respond to me; my question WAS really polite.

Their research and services are really impressive. They're on the "legal" side so far, but I didn't get any feeling that they wouldn't step right over to the dark side as soon as somebody else's research seemed promising.



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