Christopher Reeve says politics have stalled research
Most of Christopher Reeve’s talk in the last week has been hopeful. In promoting Wednesday’s ABC documentary, ”Christopher Reeve: Courageous Steps,” he’s noted how, through an intense regimen of physical therapy, he’s defied medical predictions and regained a bit of movement and sensation, years after a 1995 equestrian accident rendered him quadriplegic. But in an interview with England’s Guardian newspaper, published Tuesday, Reeve railed that he might have made a lot more progress had stem cell research not been stifled by the federal government, acting under pressure from religious groups.
Reeve can now move his left fingers, his right wrist, and even his legs a little bit. He can breathe for a few minutes without his respirator, and he can feel pinpricks and temperature changes on most of his body. Those are certainly remarkable feats for someone who’s been paralyzed for seven years, since most such recovery occurs within a year or not at all. Still, ”Superman” star won’t reach his stated goal of walking by his 50th birthday, which is Sept. 25. ”It’s defeatist to harp on what might have been,” he told the Guardian, ”and yet, it’s hard to resist considering what might have been.”
”What I did not expect was that hope would be influenced by politics,” he said. ”If we’d had full government support, full government funding for aggressive research using embryonic stem cells from the moment they were first isolated, at the University of Wisconsin in the winter of 1998, I don’t think it unreasonable to speculate that we might be in human trials by now.”
Reeve said that lobbying by religious groups has trumped scientific logic. ”We’ve had a severe violation of the separation of church and state in the handling of what to do about this emerging technology,” he said. ”There are religious groups — the Jehovah’s Witnesses, I believe — who think it’s a sin to have a blood transfusion. What if the president for some reason decided to listen to them, instead of to the Catholics, which is the group he really listens to in making his decisions about embryonic stem cell research? Where would we be with blood transfusions?”
”I’m angry, and disappointed,” Reeve said. ”I think we could have been much further along with scientific research than we actually are, and I think I would have been in quite a different situation than I am today.” He added, ”Who knows what might have been accomplished if there had been fair play politically?”