Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Horrible Disease & Why I'm Not Doing the Ice Bucket Challenge

As I saw the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge getting closer and closer to my circle of friends, I knew it was only a matter of time.  After my good friend Michael Jordan failed to nominate me, I got the call from a few other famous guys via Facebook.  But I’m not taking them up on the challenge.  Here’s why.

Before the why, it’s important to make something clear: ALS is a terrible disease.  Working toward a cure for ALS is worthy of financial and social media support.  I appreciated this post from blogger Bo Stern about the challenge and what it’s like to live with ALS.  It’s worth a read.

I say that so you know I’m not against the social media wave and support for a worthy cause, or that I am insensitive and unaffected by the plight of others. 

But I cannot support the ALS Association because they are open to and are currently funding (according to the America Life League) at least one research project that uses embryonic stem cells.  Neither can I participate in a social media experiment that may cause others to support such an endeavor. 

The ALSA describes embryonic stem cells on their website: “Human embryonic stem cells are derived from fertilized embryos less than a week old.”  For those of us that hold to life at conception, this is an ethical and moral problem.  The ALSA seems to acknowledge as much: “The discovery that human embryonic stem cells can be isolated and propagated in culture with the potential of developing into all tissues of the body is a major medical breakthrough. However it has raised a great deal of ethical questions.”

Yet, even though they acknowledge the ethical dilemma involved, they still support research using embryonic stem cells: “Adult stem cell research is important and should be done alongside embryonic stem cell research as both will provide valuable insights. Only through exploration of all types of stem cell research will scientists find the most efficient and effective ways to treat diseases.”

It is difficult to see how an organization can promote the advancement of life based upon the destruction of life.  As Fr. Michael Duffy has pointed out, Pope John Paul II said it best: “Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory, as is any production of human embryos for the direct or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction.”

This is why I cannot support the Ice Bucket Challenge.  But where to go from here? 

First, I would love to see the ALSA become a worthy place for pro-lifers and Christians to support through their commitment to stop funding embryonic stem cell research.  This is a horrible disease and families need help.  I am happy for the millions of dollars that will go toward helping NON-embryonic stem cell research.  I am grieved for any of the money that will be used to research on embryos. 

Second, commit to pray for those suffering with ALS, and seek to encourage and come alongside anyone under its pain. 

Third, if you participated in this challenge (or nominated me!) and are pro-life, don’t wallow in guilt.  In God’s providence I found out about the stem cell research about an hour before I was nominated.  Otherwise, I would have been in.  What you can do is make sure others know what their support (financial and social) is potentially funding. 

Fourth, perhaps someone knows of a worthy organization that can be supported by pro-lifers.  If so, share in the comments. 

UPDATED 8/26/14
One cause that does not fund embryonic stem cell research is Team Irvine.  This is a specific family dealing with the financial burdens of ALS.

A national initiative worthy of support is Team Gleason.  I e-mailed them specifically about stem cell research and they confirmed that they do not fund projects of this nature.  Here is a second reply I received from them:
"Team Gleason, does not as its mission fund research. When you were told, we "only support" the retrieval of skin or blood samples, we just want to be clear that that initiative, Answer ALS,  is the only one we fund, because it came from our own Team Gleason Summit. There are no embryonic stem cells used in the plan, nor was it ever suggested. Aside from that one research project, all of our funding goes to directly help those currently living with ALS."