Thursday, August 12, 2004

Milly Kondracke 

Stem Cell Muddle, Richard Cohen, Washington Post
Milly Kondracke was a life also. She died July 22 at 64 of complications from Parkinson's, a phrase that cannot begin to describe what she had been through. Her husband, the journalist Morton Kondracke, chronicled her suffering in the book "Saving Milly." I wrote about this book more than three years ago, and if you will permit me, I will quote myself:

"I read about Milly's unstoppable decline -- how at first she had trouble signing her name, then walking, then talking, eating, turning over in bed, standing, drinking, controlling her bowels. I read, in both shock and wonder, of Mort washing her, changing her, feeding her, clearing food out of her clogged throat and, through it all, loving her -- completely, physically. I read an account of a love so huge that I shrank before it: Could I do the same?"

I don't know. I hope I never know -- and while I am confessing ignorance, let me say also that I don't know for sure when life begins. But I recognized life in Milly -- oh, what gusto she once had! -- and I don't see it in the earliest of fetuses.

Dear Mr. Cohen,

I read your article on fetal stem cell research. If you feel so strongly that stem cell research is moral and will lead to a better society, then put your money where your mouth is and contribute to all the private stem cell research that is going on. It's not as if President Bush made fetal stem cell research illegal afterall, he was the first to actually fund it federally! Your article is quite misleading about the President's actions.

I'm sure you wouldn't take the tack that your tax dollars should fund research into things that you find morally wrong, would you? But your article makes no allowances for those who find stem cell research abhorrent. If Parkinson's research discovers a genetic stamp that would allow us to know if a baby will develop Parkinson's later in life, would you support aborting Mort's wife, or Michael J. Fox, or Muhammad Ali? I mean, just look at their quality of life, isn't it better to never have been born?

Next time, make the case as to why dying from Parkinson's is so bad that it's much better to never have been born. If you can make that case, then you'll win over those who believe all life is sacred, no matter how small, just like in "Horton Hears a Who". Make the case for boiling that dust speck, Mr. Cohen, change the ending of Seuss' book and let's all read it to our children and grandchildren and see how they like it when the Who's are boiled in oil. Your children and grandchildren, after all, are the ones who will have to live in the world you imagine... in the world where Horton's tormentors boil the dust speck even after they hear the Who's screaming.

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