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Christopher D’Olier Reeve (25 September 1952 – 10 October 2004) was an American actor, director, producer, writer, lobbyist, and husband of actress Dana Reeve. He is best remembered for playing the titular main character in the film Superman (1978) and its three sequels.
- The key word for me on him is “inspiration.” He is a leader by inspiration. He sets an example. It’s quite important that people realize that I don’t see him as a glad-handing show-off, a one-man vigilante force who rights every wrong. Basically, he’s a pacifist, a man who comes along and says, ‘What can I do to help?’ He stands on the sidelines until there is real trouble. He does not want to get involved unless it’s absolutely necessary because he thinks people should learn to make their own decisions.
- On the role of “Superman” in an interview with Gene Siskel (1978), quoted in the “Biography” at Chris Reeve Homepage
- Somewhere in Time, while it errs on the side of pretentiousness, is an absolutely honest attempt to create an old-fashioned romance. It’s based on love rather than on sex or X-rated bedroom scenes. I don’t know how to talk about a love story without getting all gooey about it, but the script excited me because of the situation of the leading character… His problem struck me as that of many people. They’ve got everything going for them, or so they say, except for a real commitment, a real love.
- Statement of 1980, as quoted in the “Biography” at Chris Reeve Homepage
- Superman is nothing more than a popular retelling of the Christ story, or Greek mythology. It’s an archetype, watered down and made in vivid colors for twelve-year-old’s mentality. It’s pop mythology, which extends to the actor, then seeps over to a demand that that actor reflect the needs of the worshipers. The worship doesn’t only go on in the temples — it goes on in the streets, and restaurants, in magazines. But, you know, I’m from New Jersey, I’m not from Olympus or Krypton, so back off ’cause I can’t take the responsibility.
- Caught in the Act : New York Actors Face to Face (1986) by Don Shewey and Susan Shacter, p. 18
- So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.
- I’m starting a new chapter in my life, and you have no idea how much that means.
- At the premiere of his first work as a director, after his injuries of 1995 (1997)
- We live in a time when the words impossible and unsolvable are no longer part of the scientific community’s vocabulary. Each day we move closer to trials that will not just minimize the symptoms of disease and injury but eliminate them.
- Testimony to a U.S House of Representatives subcommittee, on NIH funding for the year 2000 (14 April 1999)
- When the first Superman movie came out, I gave dozens of interviews to promote it. The most frequent question was: What is a hero? My answer was that a hero is someone who commits a courageous action without considering the consequences. Now my definition is completely different. I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. They are the real heroes, and so are the families and friends who have stood by them.
- Still Me (1999); also quoted at the Christopher Reeve Foundation
- What makes Superman a hero is not that he has power, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely.
- As quoted in Celebrities in Hell (2002) by Warren Allen Smith, p. 98
- In 1984, the government spent zero dollars on AIDS research, because AIDS was thought to be a death sentence, and the virus was far too complicated to deal with. Today, the government spends annually $1.8 billion a year on research, and people who would have been dead four or five years ago now have the virus virtually undetectable in their bloodstream, and they’re living normal lives.
That was something thought impossible until we put money and talent together and aimed it toward a problem.
- Christopher Reeve, “Rehabilitation Research – No Reason to Hold Back”, VA Rehabilitation Research and Development Research and Development Conference, Crystal City, Virginia, (February 21, 2000)
- “Neglect – even misstatement – of recent scientific data was also evident in last year’s testimony before this subcommittee by the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. Mr. Reeve, on behalf of the Foundation, testified that adult stem cells are no substitute for embryonic cells because they cannot be “pluripotent” but are confined to a narrow range of specialization. Yet a few weeks after that hearing, researchers funded by the NIH and the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation published a study indicating that adult bone marrow stem cells “may constitute an abundant and accessible cellular reservoir for the treatment of a variety of neurologic diseases.” The first sentence of the published study states: “Pluripotent stem cells have been detected in multiple tissues in the adult, participating in normal replacement and repair, while undergoing self-renewal. The authors cite eleven other studies in support of this observation. Their article, prepared under the aegis of Mr. Reeve’s foundation, was received for publication in March 2000, before Mr. Reeve testified in April that adult stem cells cannot be pluripotent.
- As quoted in “Testimony on National Institutes of Health funding and stem cell research [S 2015 Stem Cell Research Act of 2000] (Senate – April 26, 2000)
- With the life expectancy of average Americans heading as high as 85 to 90 years, it is our responsibility to do everything possible to protect the quality of life of the present and future generations. A critical factor will be what we do with human embryonic stem cells. These cells have the potential to cure diseases and conditions ranging from Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis to diabetes and heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, even spinal-cord injuries like my own. They have been called the body’s self-repair kit.
Their extraordinary potential is a recent discovery. And much basic research needs to be done before they can be sent to the front lines in the battle against disease. But no obstacle should stand in the way of responsible investigation of their possibilities. To that end, the work should be funded and supervised by the Federal Government through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That will avoid abuses by for- profit corporations, avoid secrecy and destructive competition between laboratories and ensure the widest possible dissemination of scientific breakthroughs. Human trials should be conducted either on the NIH campus or in carefully monitored clinical facilities.
Fortunately, stem cells are readily available and easily harvested. In fertility clinics, women are given a choice of what to do with unused fertilized embryos: they can be discarded, donated to research or frozen for future use. Under NIH supervision, scientists should be allowed to take cells only from women who freely consent to their use for research. This process would not be open ended; within one to two years a sufficient number could be gathered and made available to investigators. For those reasons, the ban on federally funded human embryonic stem cell research should be lifted as quickly as possible.
But why has the use of discarded embryos for research suddenly become such an issue? Is it more ethical for a woman to donate unused embryos that will never become human beings, or to let them be tossed away as so much garbage when they could help save thousands of lives?
- Testimony on National Institutes of Health funding and stem cell research [S 2015 Stem Cell Research Act of 2000] (Senate – April 26, 2000)
- Specific to spinal cord injured patients, immuno-suppressive drugs are not an option in a stem cell transplant procedure because of the increased risk of side effects. Spinal cord injuries cause many individuals to be more susceptible to respiratory infection due to an inability to clear secre-tions, limited chest movement, and a need for ventilation assistance. In addition, there is a greater risk of bladder infection and sepsis due to chronic catheterization. Some spinal cord patients who incur an infection are further compromised by the infection seeding around the heart. Urinary tract infections and skin breakdowns due to immobility are common causes of dsyreflexia, an event which often triggers heart attacks and strokes.
I have been told by Dr. John McDonald of Washington University in St. Louis, that because this immune system of a spinal cord patient is already so compromised, it would be irresponsible to transplant stem cells into an individual that did not match his or her own DNA. Although there is still a risk of rejection, no reputable doctor would prescribe Cyclosporin, the leading immuno-suppressive drug therapy, to a spinal cord injured patient because the risk of death is too great. Somatic cell nuclear transfer could dramatically improve the treatment efficacy of any stem cell transplant because it uses one’s own genetic makeup. In addition, there is the potential of eliminating the risks and side effects associated with highly toxic immuno-suppressive agents.
- Testimony in favor of funding human cloning experiments [S. 1758 Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001] (Senate – March 12, 2002)
- The budget of the National Institute of Health in 1998 was 12 billion dollars. However, due to Congress and also got pressure applied by a number of disease groups, the budget for fiscal 2003 will be 27.2 billion dollars. And human … HHS Secretary Thompson has said there is plenty of money available for the kind of research. Doubling the budget of the NIH and more within five years has been an extraordinary accomplishment. So to say that there isn’t … I mean, more money would be nice, but to say there’s not enough money to do research into therapeutic cloning is a false statement.
- “Cloning: The Debate”, (May 20, 2002), New York Academy of Sciences, p.9
- In the early ’80s, the public discourse about AIDS was divisive and ugly. Some elected officials said the disease was God’s revenge on people who lived a certain lifestyle. The federal government wouldn’t fund research for a cure. But, today, the NIH spends $1.8 billion on AIDS research annually, and the virus is no longer an epidemic in this country.
So, how did we get from that climate of fear and animosity in the early ’80s to where we are today? Well, it’s by the extraordinary efforts of ordinary individuals, then change occurred, as it has time and time again throughout our history.
- Christopher Reeve, “Dana Morosini Reeve ’84 & Christopher Reeve”, MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS, (May 23, 2004)
- It gives me a moral compass. I often refer to Abe Lincoln, who said, “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. And that is my religion.” I think we all have a little voice inside us that will guide us. It may be God, I don’t know. But I think that if we shut out all the noise and clutter from our lives and listen to that voice, it will tell us the right thing to do. The Unitarian believes that God is good, and believes that God believes that man is good. Inherently. The Unitarian God is not a God of vengeance. And that is something I can appreciate.
- On joining the Unitarian Universalist Association, in an interview with Reader’s Digest (October 2004)
- “Perhaps it is my job to offend some scientists. I’m not asking them to be reckless or unprofessional, but I do want to reinforce a sense of urgency.”
- As quoted I Nigel Williams, “Reeve’s stem-cell legacy”, “Current Biology” , Volume 14, Issue 21, 9 November 2004, Pages R907-R908
- What I do is based on powers we all have inside us; the ability to endure; the ability to love, to carry on, to make the best of what we have — and you don’t have to be a ‘Superman’ to do it.
- As quoted at the Christopher Reeve Foundation, also in Encyclopedia of Stem Cell Research (2008) by Clive N. Svendsen and Allison D. Ebert, Vol. 1, p. 104
“Christopher Reeve Testimony on National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding”, (June 5, 1997)
- When I met with the President in May of 1996, he stated that the ratio of research to clinical results is greater in this country than anywhere else in the world. Money spent on research brings practical results that absolutely justify the investment. Let’s look at a few examples.
NIH-sponsored research has resulted in the identification of genetic mutations that cause osteoporosis, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s disease. Effective treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) has been developed and today nearly 80 percent of children diagnosed with ALL are alive and disease-free after 5 years.
Because of research, the nature of medicine is changing. We are approaching disease at the cellular level. We are targeting problems earlier, more specifically, less intrusively, with greater success and fewer side effects. Advances in genetics will soon let us intervene in disease before symptoms appear.
- We must not stop this progress because we are unwilling to commit enough money to get the job done. It is imperative that the public–and more importantly our elected representatives understand that research today is not speculative. It is not a waste of money. It is the only way to relieve suffering while helping to save the American economy at the same time.
Making this a reality demands an investment of real dollars–funds that just don’t fit within the constraints of the Budget Agreement passed by Congress this week, which proposes to reduce overall health spending by $100 million next year and by more than $2 billion over the next 5 years.
- [R]ecent experience has shown that even the most formidable lobbyists cannot derail legislation that has bipartisan and public support.
The NRA was not successful in repealing the ban on assault weapons.
The American public watched in disbelief as a dozen tobacco company executives testified at a Senate hearing that nicotine is not addictive and denied allegations that nicotine levels were being raised in cigarettes in order to increase addiction. Now we are witnessing the demise of the “Marlboro Man” and “Joe Camel”. There are lawsuits in virtually every state by individuals demanding punitive damages against the tobacco companies. Just this week, thousands of government workers petitioned the President to ban smoking in government buildings. I sincerely doubt that the tobacco lobby will be able to stop this initiative.
The religious right led by Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan and the Christian Coalition tried twice unsuccessfully (in 1992 and 1996) to hijack the Republican Party and failed in both attempts. Here again, was a case when a supposedly powerful lobby did not succeed in promoting their agenda.
- The insurance companies see this legislation as a tax. My question is: why is that unreasonable, particularly when the insurance companies would save so much money in the long run. Research will keep the American people healthier, resulting in fewer insurance claims. We tax oil companies and use the money to build and maintain highways. In New York state, if you win the lottery, you pay a significant tax which goes to a state fund for education. Most states have sales taxes which are a major source of revenue for a wide variety of programs and services that benefit the public. Why shouldn’t insurance companies be asked to help solve the health care crisis in this country?
Because of the advances to date, we can save millions of lives. Our challenge for the future is not just improving the quality of life of those we save, but finding the cures to prevent that suf-fering in the first place.
Our scientists are on the threshold of major breakthroughs in almost every disease or condition that now cause so much hardship for people across the country and around the world. The insurance companies owe it to our families and our society to make a small sacrifice which can do so much good. I hope that this excellent piece of legislation which already has tremendous grassroots support will be enacted during this legislative session.
”An Evening With Christopher Reeve”, Copps Coliseum – (May 13 1999)
- Now fortunately, even a couple of years before my injury, we were in the dark ages about spinal cord and the common wisdom was that the cord could not regenerate. But I want to say that one of the great heros and really the father of regeneration is a distinguished Canadian who will go down in history as the father of spinal cord recovery. And that is Professor Alberto Aguierro at McGill University. He is the one who discovered that there are two protein molecules at the base of the brain stem. The positive function of these molecules is to stop the brain from overdeveloping during gestation. But then in the adult these protein molecules perform a negative function, they stop the regeneration of nerves in the spinal cord. Now you can chop off your hand then a surgeon can sew it back on again and you can go out and throw a baseball, because of the plasticity and ease with which the peripheral nervous system is able to make appropriate connections. And the good news now for us is that they have discovered nerves regenerate in the spinal cord they seek to find appropriate connections across the injury, across the lesion. And when these appropriate connections are made there will be improvement in sensation and in motor function and depending on the severity of the injury, there are endless possibilities to how much recovery can occur. If someone has been very damaged there may be limitations, if someone is less damaged there may be a better outcome.
But the point is, through regeneration the use of human embryonic cells, the use of gene therapy, the spinal cord can and will regenerate and so it is only a question of time before these techniques make their way into humans. One of the most exciting discoveries was made by a Dr. Viscovi in Milan who found that there are cells called epitomal cells which were thought to only exist in again, in the child during gestation, because these cells are undifferentiated and they can become anything.
Well, very recently, just two months ago these cells were found to exist in the adult in the ventri-cles of the brain, in the spinal cord and even in the skin. And this is tremendously exciting because the hope, the best hope for recovery now, is to biopsy these cells from your skin, from your hand for example, they could grow hundreds of thousands of cells in a petri dish and genetically instruct them to become neurons and axons. They would then be injected inside of the injury and they would become the nerves necessary to carry messages from the brain to the rest of the body.
Now that would have been science fiction a few years ago, but it’s here and it’s happening and it doesn’t matter whether it’s an acute injury or a chronic injury. So I offer you the specific detail, not to give you a boring science lecture but to tell you there is very real tangible hope, very real hope…And one of the great advantages of this technique is that there is no danger of toxicity to the body or rejection by the immune system. And what I love about it is the body is healing itself. Taking cells from one part and using them in another area and I think that’s some-how a beautiful design, rather than loading up the body with more chemicals and more drugs and more artificial agents.
- [I]t seems to me that this past century has accomplished two Civil Rights movements. First, the right for blacks and Hispanics and people from all different nationalities to take their place in the middle of society and that has been achieved at great cost. It is a tremendous struggle in America, but now we think nothing of walking into an office and finding that a black person is the president of the company instead of a janitor cleaning the hallways. And then we learned that the talent that blacks and Hispanics have, always had, their intelligence, dedication and willingness to work is no less than anybody else. They have been able to persevere and finally I think we have really overcome tremendous amounts of prejudice, not only in the United States, but throughout the world.
The second great Civil Rights movement was equality for women. It started at the end of the last century. Women finally got to vote. We’ve gotten all the way to the point now where women aren’t expected to stay home and just be mothers and it’s okay to be a single parent and it’s okay to go out and pursue your ambition and your dreams. And that’s been a very important breakthrough because there are so many areas where women are more talented and have more to offer than men do.
And now we are beginning to see everybody working side by side in society and in the workplace. But, there remains one HUGE minority that is still terribly discriminated against. And that population is the disabled population. And that comprises 1/5 of the world’s population. In the United States, for example, we have 54 million disabled people and the thing that’s very difficult is when blacks and Hispanics and women were fighting for equal rights there was a level of discomfort. But nothing approaching what happens when “normal” people look at the disabled and are uncomfortable. That is a prejudice that they MUST overcome because we’re not in a position to always look our very best or to feel our very best, or to be pleasing to the eye because we have suffered terrible debilitating diseases and injuries. But what’s happening now is the kind of discrimination that is so bad and I want to tell you that it exceeds any prejudice that ever occurred before in the previous civil rights movements.
- When people project and understand that in an instant and as they grow older they face Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS, strokes, all the diseases of the brain and central nervous system, which will effect the entire population as we get older. People begin to realize hey I’m lucky, I’m just temporarily not disabled. So, the point is we’re beginning to see equality, we’re beginning to see new opportunities and that brings me to the other part we’ve already talked about, acceptance and the other part is denial. And what I mean by that, and everybody has to work it out for themselves, my point of view may not be your point of view, so please hold onto your belief and let me hold onto my belief. But my belief is that there is nothing we can’t accomplish if we set our minds to it.
“Christopher Reeve Remarks at the National Press Club”, (December 1, 1999)
- I’ve always been a practical person, not one to waste time pursuing unrealistic goals or dreams. But today’s dreams can soon become tomorrow’s reality in biomedical research. Scientists studying how the brain’s cells and chemicals develop, interact, and communicate with the rest of the body have been making strides in alleviating the suffering of patients with Alzheimer’s, strokes, Parkinson’s, and MS, as well as brain and spinal cord injuries. Only recently researchers have dis-covered that stem cells, which have the ability to adapt to any environment in the body, will prob-ably be the most important factor in curing all of these conditions. For example, in order to repair the damaged spinal cord, stem cells can be extracted from the ventricles of the brain or from bone marrow and genetically engineered to become nerve tissue. Highly successful experiments on mice have shown that when these transformed stem cells are transferred into the site of the injury, they apparently understand that their mission is to replace the damaged circuitry, which causes significant functional recovery. Mice that have had their spinal cords completely transected have been able to walk confidently across tightropes and climb rope ladders after this treatment.
You would think that these breakthroughs would be a cause for celebration throughout the disabled community. In scientific terms, we are very close to achieving the impossible; in practical terms, we have a long way to go. But it is very disheartening to hear a leading researcher announce, “give us a hundred million dollars and we can cure Parkinson’s”; or, “if we raise 300 million dollars, we can find a cure for paralysis in 5 years instead of 15.” The idea of spending 15 more years in a wheelchair being fed, dressed, and washed by others would be tolerable if the scientists were still in the dark and there was no hope of recovery. I think most disabled people would agree with me that it is very difficult to cope psychologically with the stark reality that our future now depends mostly on money.
- [W]hile the budget for research is negotiated annually on Capitol Hill, Alzheimer’s has crippled 4 million Americans. This disease alone costs our nation 100 billion dollars every year and this number is expected to rise dramatically as baby boomers continue to age. Parkinson’s afflicts nearly half a million Americans and costs us at least 6 million a year. Another half million Americans suffer strokes each year, costing more than 30 million in medical treatment, rehabilitation, and long-term care. Diabetes afflicts nearly 16 million people. It is the leading cause of blindness, kidney disease, and limb amputations; and it costs our nation between 90 and 140 billion dollars a year.
- Sitting in a chair for more than 4 years now has given me plenty of time to think about many of the distorted and irrational values in our society. For example, all the researchers now agree that the damaged spinal cord can and will be repaired. But, they caution, recovery will only benefit the fittest. This means that the patient must exercise diligently to prevent muscle atrophy, and the loss of bone density and cardiovascular capacity. Special equipment ranging from electrodes that stimulate muscle groups, tilt tables that allow people to stand and bear weight, exercise bicycles, and treadmill therapy, which enables even a quadriplegic to walk while suspended in a harness, are all available. When the cure comes and signals from the brain once again reach the body, individuals who have kept in shape will be able to be rehabilitated relatively quickly and will no longer need payments from their insurance company. But no company will pay for this proactive therapy which would save them hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run. So most spinal cord injury victims simply deteriorate while they continue to fight for basic quality of life coverage. Meanwhile, the CEOs of many insurance companies are making salaries in the neighborhood of 300 million dollars a year. How much profit is reasonable and justifiable?
The same distortion of values is evident in entertainment, sports, and politics. Why do studios pay some of their biggest stars 20 million dollars a picture? Does even the most gifted athlete deserve 91 million dollars over 7 years to swing a bat and catch a baseball? Why is it that so many of our elected officials end up in office primarily because they have been able to outspend their opponents? At the other end of the spectrum, why has the NIH since its inception in 1940 had to plead incessantly for enough money to battle every disease in the encyclopedia?
- The prosperity that we’ve enjoyed in the 90’s has spawned a new breed of individuals who have amassed tremendous fortunes at a very young age. Many of them have reaped the rewards of a stock market that seems to have no upper limit. Others have moved swiftly into the fast lane of the information superhighway, and achieved a net worth in the billions long before their 40th birthday. Often they literally don’t know what to do with that much money. Unfortunately, philanthropy is not something many of them perceive as an important responsibility of the wealthy. While of course there are a number of notable exceptions, too many of these young billionaires become obsessed with privacy and are more likely to build half a dozen homes in different parts of the world than to give back to society.
In the early years of this century, the notion of what it meant to be a “gentleman” informed the actions of the very rich – the Vanderbilts, Astors, Rockefellers, Carnegies, and the like. They too built “cottages” in Newport, and enjoyed their yachts. But they also created foundations, endowed universities, built hospitals and libraries, and donated land for public use. I don’t think it’s a wild stretch of the imagination to believe that if they knew that 300 million dollars would cure paralysis in 5 years instead of 15, they would have reached for their checkbooks.
But we must not wallow in nostalgia for the Gilded Age, when in fact, there is so much potential in the present. Ten corporations could each give 30 million dollars without any undue hardship. When people ask me what are my hopes and dreams for the new Millennium, my answer is I hope technology will not diminish genuine human contact and compassion. I still believe that when people really make the effort to understand each other, the possibilities are limitless. The solutions to the problems we will face in the 21st century — such as overpopulation, the environment, education, and disease — will only be achieved by every one of us doing our part. We must appeal to the government, the private sector, venture capitalists, corporations of all sizes, and every individual who can only afford to give 5 dollars to help further the cause. You in the media can lead the way by creating awareness and affecting public opinion.
In the last hundred years, we invented the automobile, the airplane, and weapons of mass destruction. We journeyed to the moon and built shiny new cities throughout the country. We concerned ourselves with material success, convenience, and a higher standard of living. Now it’s time for America to take care of its own. The life expectancy for Americans has practically doubled over the course of this century. Now it is our responsibility to ensure that from cradle to grave, these years are ones of quality and productivity, not pain and suffering. The time is now, at the dawn of a new Millennium.
“Testimony in favor of funding human cloning experiments” [S. 1758 Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001] (Senate – March 5, 2002)
- For the record, I am a C-2 ventilator-dependent quadriplegic, which means that I am paralyzed from the shoulders down and unable to breathe on my own. For the last 7 years, I have not been able to eat, wash, go to the bathroom, or get dressed by myself.
Some people are able to accept living with a severe disability. I am not one of them, and that is why I have a keen interest in research and am deeply disturbed by unreasonable attempts to block scientific progress.
The fact that the House of Representatives banned cloning last year without careful deliberation makes the Senate debate a matter of great urgency.
- Today, 100 million Americans suffer from serious or currently incurable diseases. Fifty-four mil-lion Americans are disabled . Our Government is supposed to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Beyond that, we have a moral responsibility to help others. Time is absolutely critical. If the Government forces scientists’ attempt to make adult stem cells behave like embryonic stem cells, they might waste 5 years or more and fail. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands will have died.
Why do we need therapeutic cloning? As a layman, several important reasons come to mind. One, implantation of human embryonic stem cells is not safe unless they contain the patient’s own DNA. Two, efforts, to repair central nervous system disorders may need to recapitulate the process of fetal development, and that could only be accomplished by human embryonic stem cells. Three, therapeutic cloning is done without fertilizing an egg. It can be strictly regulated. If we also enforce an absolute ban on reproductive cloning, we will not slide down the dreaded slippery slope into moral and ethical chaos.
Any powerful new technology comes with the possibility for abuse. But when we decide that the benefit to society is worth the risk, we take every possible precaution and go forward.
The unfertilized eggs that will be used for nucleus transplantation will never leave the laboratory and will never be implanted in a womb. But if we do not make this research legal, if we do not use Government funding and oversight, it will happen privately, dangerous unregulated and uncontrolled.
And our country is about to lose its preeminence in science and medicine. We took a giant step backward in the 1970’s when the NIH was not allowed to fund its in vitro research until an advisory commission could be formed to consider the issue. In the meantime, there was rapid progress in England, and the first test tube baby was born in 1978. For purely political reasons, we did not succeed and so far, 177,000 children have been conceived in 400 facilities around the country.
- Today, human trials to defeat Parkinson’s are underway in Sweden. In Israel, macrophages scavenger cells that eat debris in the body, are being used to repair the damaged spinal cord within 2 weeks of injury. The first human subject was a 19-year-old girl from Colorado. Last week, the House of Lords in the United Kingdom passed legislation permitting research on cloned human embryos for the second time.
Those are not rogue nations behaving irresponsibly. They are allies, no less moral than we are.
- If you believe in the slippery slope here, it means that our entire society is perched on the slippery slope. It means that regulation has no value whatsoever, and that is not true.
Now, there are always consequences. We allow 16-year-olds to get driver’s licenses, and a lot of them have accidents – but do we rescind the permission to drive a car at 16? No.
- [J]ust on a daily basis, the Government is saying to people that, yes, there is a threat of terror, but fly and go to the theater and live your life and take that risk, because every day, you hear about fighter escorts having to take some airplane back to the airport because there was another bomb threat. People are boarding airplanes, passing security checkpoints, and then found to be carrying dangerous material – but still we go on.
So yes, you take a risk that somebody somewhere could get involved in creating a human out of reproductive cloning, but it is not at all likely, and to be afraid of pursuing therapeutic cloning is really going to be reprehensible, because you cannot use embryonic stem cells for therapy without being able to use therapeutic cloning – it will not work.
- I need to object, and that is that, Senator, you insist on separating therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cells. However, in my own case, I require re-myelination of nerves. That means replacing the conductive coat of fat, myelin, that allows electricity to come down, currents from the brain to the central nervous system for function. At the moment, only embryonic stem cells have the potential to do that, and experiments are being done now in larger animals demonstrating that.
- [A] scientist at Washington University, Dr. John McDonald, whom I have been working with says that there is no way he would inject stem cells without being able to use my own DNA for safety reasons. So without the ability to use my own DNA, without that somatic cell transfer, I am out of luck.
The other thing is to please remember that therapeutic cloning, nucleus transplantation, is done with unfertilized eggs. You keep referring to destroying an embryo. I think that destroying an embryo is what happens when the leftovers from fertility clinics are thrown out. We can agree that they go to the garbage routinely. But to say that an unfertilized egg has the same status, I believe is incorrect, and I think that this is the line of research that holds so much promise and can also get us around the ethical quandary that we keep putting ourselves in. We are talking about an unfertilized egg that will never leave the lab, that will never be implanted in a womb, and that can be regulated. And it is crucial for research.
- [N]ever in the history of science have we been given such a gift of being able to use cells that can become any tissue or cell type in the body for the purpose of healing. I think that if you do not have the combination of therapeutic cloning and embryonic stem cells, you are going to be con-demning a lot of people to unnecessary and death.
If I look around at what else is going on, for years just in the spinal cord community, there has been research on growth factors and Schwann cells, and there have been efforts to stop protein inhibitor, but they have not yet shown the same promise that the embryonic stem cells do, and at the moment, in two places, Washington University in St. Louis and the University of California at Irvine, researchers have been conducting very successful experiments using human embryonic stem cells in animal models in both the acute and chronic phases and getting recovery.
Of course, they are going to have to move to the higher animal forms before humans, but the promise is absolutely extraordinary, and I cannot think of any other kind of therapy that would be as effective and as promising as this is. And when I read articles or hear people say that the promise of human embryonic stem cells is dubious, I am very disturbed, because the only reason they get to say that is because the NIH has not been allowed to spend a single dollar on embryonic stem cell research. They have a budget now of $25 billion, and yet, because of lack of guidelines and because of the restrictions that have been im-posed on the NIH so far, not one human embryonic stem cell project has been federally funded. That is why you are seeing such slow progress. And if we continue that way, I am going to be in this wheelchair for a long time that I do not need to be, and others like me.
Quotes about Reeve
- He was the human voice that changed attitudes. It’s one thing for scientists to say ‘we know we can do this’, but Christopher put all this into a real-life perspective. It’s people like Christopher we desperately want to help.
- Colin Blakemore as quoted by Mark Peplow, “Christopher Reeve”, Nature, (11 October 2004)
- It is sad that he did not live long enough to see the full benefits of the research for which he campaigned.
- Colin Blakemore as quoted by Mark Peplow, “Christopher Reeve”, Nature, (11 October 2004)
- He (Reeve) was put on this Earth for… a lot of reasons. He wasn’t just here to be an actor. He was Superman.
- Superman: The Movie director Richard Donner.
- Christopher Reeve is Superman, right here, right now… Reeve shows us the power, the possibilities and the results of a fierce and persistent commitment to growth and development. With God’s help, Reeve is Superman because: 1. He survived the horse riding accident and challenged himself physically during countless months of painful physical therapy. 2. Because he remained committed to his role as a loving husband and doting father 3. Because he kept hope alive in the face of injury and paralysis that can destroy all hope-in the face of having to depend on his wife and many others to feed, wash, change, move and carry him to the doctor. 4. Because he came to the conclusion that God still had something for him to do… Christopher Reeve turned his focus away from his paralysis and began figuring out how he could live afresh. Reeve decided that a lot of people might like to hear his story. Instead of limiting the communication of his story to letters, books and videos subject to edit, Reeve chose the lecture circuit. That meant showing up in public, allowing the public to gawk at his incapacity, talking about his condition and sharing lessons learned. Thus, Christopher Reeve has become Superman for real.
- Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton, in his sermon Go Make A Life
- Christopher was a hero to many people. We will continue in his honour to be steadfast in our goal of finding treatments and cures for paralysis.
- Kathy Lewis as quoted by Mark Peplow, Reeve”, Nature, (11 October 2004)
- Christopher Reeve has done an amazing job promoting responsible stem-cell research across the world.
- Stephen Minger as quoted by Mark Peplow, “Christopher Reeve”, Nature, (11 October 2004)
- Reeve “appropriately brought a sense of urgency to this issue,” said Perry, head of the research coalition, which favors stem cell science. “On Capitol Hill he was such a highly regarded figure and was so focused on the message.”
- Daniel Perry as quoted in Cathy Shufro, “Keep religion out of stem cell research, Reeve urges medical school audience”. Yale Medicine, (2003 – Autumn)
- He put a [human]] face on the dreams. He used his star power as a celebrity for a great good that transcends anything that most of us will ever achieve.
- Daniel Perry in Cathy Shufro, “Keep religion out of stem cell research, Reeve urges medical school audience”. Yale Medicine, (2003 – Autumn)
- He was able to inspire hope in patients with diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease … tragic and life-threatening conditions that face tens of millions of Americans.
- Daniel Perry in Cathy Shufro, “Keep religion out of stem cell research, Reeve urges medical school audience”. Yale Medicine, (2003 – Autumn)
- In a talk sponsored by the Yale Stem Cell Interest Group, actor Christopher Reeve said science, not religion, should drive the debate over stem cell research.
Social and religious conservatives have robbed American scientists of their chance to play a leading role in the promising field of stem cell research, actor and writer Christopher Reeve said during a visit to the medical school in April. “We’re giving away our pre-eminence in science and medicine,” he said. “We’re going to lose incredibly valuable time.
“When matters of public policy are being decided, no religion should have a seat at the table—that is what is provided for in the Constitution,” Reeve said. Yet religious conservatives, including the Pope, he said, “have an undue influence in the debate.”
Because of their plasticity—their ability to differentiate into any cell in the human body—stem cells “have unlimited potential to cure disease,” Reeve told the crowd that filled the auditorium of the Anylan Center for Medical Research and Education. Reeve also hopes that stem cell research will lead to a cure for paralysis such as his, the result of a 1995 riding accident.
In a talk sponsored by the Yale Stem Cell Interest Group, Reeve criticized President Bush’s order of August 9, 2001, restricting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to only 64 extant cell lines. (Last May, National Institutes of Health Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., acknowledged that only 11 of those lines were eligible for federal research funds.) Reeve suggested that the decision made no ethical sense in light of Bush’s objection to using embryos for research. “Those lines were derived from leftover embryos from infertility clinics. Did he suddenly develop a new morality effective August 10th?”
Reeve noted that, although typically about a third of embryos are discarded as medical waste, even vocal opponents of using embryos for research have never suggested banning in vitro fertilization. “They know very well that you can’t go to a couple and say, ‘You can’t have a child this way.’”
- As quoted in Cathy Shufro, “Keep religion out of stem cell research, Reeve urges medical school audience”. Yale Medicine, (2003 – Autumn)
- He was one of the leading figures who encouraged debate on the subject of human embryonic stem-cell research. We will miss his contribution.
- Miodrag Stojkovic as quoted by Mark Peplow, Reeve”, Nature, ( 11 October 2004)
- While his fame originally lay with his acting, his efforts in support of stem-cell research since the horse-riding accident in 1995 that left him quadraplegic have deeply affected friends and commentators.
Reeve became a vocal advocate for this research field. In stem cells, he saw a powerful tool being hampered by US policy, a tool that promised potential therapies, not just to heal himself, but to treat a host of medical conditions in others.
- Nigel Williams, “Reeve’s stem-cell legacy”, Current Biology, Volume 14, Issue 21, 9 November 2004, Pages R907-R908
- Reeve came to the stem-cell debate when the US was considering outlawing therapeutic cloning, a technique where stem cells are harvested from surplus fertilized eggs in fertility clinics. Such embryonic stem cells, it is thought, can be turned into any of the hundreds of cell types in the body. To its supporters, few medical technologies have held more promise, as such stem cells could potentially be used to replace damaged and diseased cells anywhere in the body. To its critics – and in Washington, that meant many Republicans and the religious right – the creation of embryos is morally repugnant.
Reeve saw the resistance as a challenge. With an eye on the electorate, the Bush administration imposed strict controls on therapeutic cloning, declaring that, while private institutions could do whatever they wanted, federal funds could only be used to research stem cells created before 2001. Without the full weight of federal funding behind it, Reeve and many scientists felt stem cell research had been scuppered. He set up the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation to fund some of the best research into therapies for paralysis, but the $15 million a year the foundation dedicated to research was just a fraction of what the US National Institutes of Health could have paid for, if the Bush administration had allowed it.
- Nigel Williams, “Reeve’s stem-cell legacy”, Current Biology, Volume 14, Issue 21, 9 November 2004, Pages R907-R908
- Biography at Christopher Reeve Homepage
- CNN obituary
- BBC obituary
- Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center : Home
- Christoper Reeve Paralysis Foundation
- Christoper Reeve at IMDb
- Everyone’s Hero Mahjongg – Film’s Original Director: Christopher Reeve Game Plays Support The Christopher Reeve Foundation.