Kerry to Cure All Diseases
I didn’t bother to comment on John Edwards’ idiotic comment Monday exploiting Christopher Reeves’ death because there wasn’t really anything to add that wasn’t being said by everyone else. Charles Krauthammer, a physician who still suffers from a debilitating accident, has plenty to say, though.
After the second presidential debate, in which John Kerry used the word “plan” 24 times, I said on television that Kerry has a plan for everything except curing psoriasis. I should have known there is no parodying Kerry’s pandering. It turned out days later that the Kerry campaign has a plan — nay, a promise — to cure paralysis. What is the plan? Vote for Kerry. This is John Edwards on Monday at a rally in Newton, Iowa: “If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”
In my 25 years in Washington, I have never seen a more loathsome display of demagoguery. Hope is good. False hope is bad. Deliberately, for personal gain, raising false hope in the catastrophically afflicted is despicable. Where does one begin to deconstruct this outrage? First, the inability of the human spinal cord to regenerate is one of the great mysteries of biology. The answer is not remotely around the corner. It could take a generation to unravel. To imply, as Edwards did, that it is imminent if only you elect the right politicians is scandalous. Second, if the cure for spinal cord injury comes, we have no idea where it will come from. There are many lines of inquiry. Stem cell research is just one of many possibilities, and a very speculative one at that. For 30 years I have heard promises of miracle cures for paralysis (including my own, suffered as a medical student). The last fad, fetal tissue transplants, was thought to be a sure thing. Nothing came of it.
As a doctor by training, I’ve known better than to believe the hype — and have tried in my own counseling of people with new spinal cord injuries to place the possibility of cure in abeyance. I advise instead to concentrate on making a life (and a very good life it can be) with the hand one is dealt. The greatest enemies of this advice have been the snake-oil salesmen promising a miracle around the corner. I never expected a candidate for vice president to be one of them.
Read the whole thing.