“I want to help people; I just don’t want to have to deal with them.” Those were my friend’s daughter’s words when she came home from college to visit, years ago. She was explaining to me why she had changed her college major and her vision for her own future. Instead of continuing in pre-med, she decided to pursue a career as a medical researcher. She had been studying advances in the history of medicine, and realizing the great impact she could potentially have on an enormous number of people while doing work that fascinated her. I remember being so impressed with her levels of motivation, social awareness, self-awareness, and honesty.
I’ve been thinking a lot about scientists and particularly medical researchers this week. So many of us thank our doctors when we have face-to-face visits with them, and our pharmacists when they fill our prescriptions. Yet we never have face-to-face contact with so many medical researchers who made their work possible; we never get to thank them. And other than the handful who are granted prestigious awards, they’re rarely recognized.
Yet they’re the ones who have cured so many diseases, prevented others, and made it possible to live with others. Unsung heroes.
Many of them are working on testing drugs, developing vaccines, and trying to find cures for HIV, cancer, blindness, birth defects, Parkinson’s and dementia, in which they rely on the unique use of fetal tissue in their medical research.
The Trump Administration recently announced that the federal government would sharply curtail federal spending on much of this vital medical research, mainly by ending fetal-tissue research within the National Institutes of Health. “Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor specializing in public health law at Georgetown University, said the new restrictions would ‘devastate’ crucial medical research…’The ban on fetal tissue research is akin to a ban on hope for millions of Americans suffering from life-threatening and debilitating diseases. It will also severely impact the National Institutes of Health, universities and other researchers, who will lose key funding for their laboratories and their vital work.’ “* According to a letter from dozens of scientific and medical groups, “Claims that other cells can be used to replace fetal tissue in biomedical research are patently incorrect.”*
Although it would bother me if any president cut any vital medical research for any reason, I find it particularly disturbing and offensive when the reason is so hypocritical. According to the official announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services, “Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration.”*
The idea that cutting research that could cure cancer and that did contribute to the cure for polio is “promoting dignity” is appalling.
The role of science and scientists throughout human history is remarkable. This is just one of many areas in which the current administration is disregarding established science in setting policy, placing political motives above science. When you vote, and when you speak to others about the importance of voting, I hope you’ll join me in remembering the important role scientists play in all our daily lives—in our health and well being, on so many levels—and vote for candidates who take science seriously. In addition, we can emphasize our respect for the importance of scientists’ work in our daily lives and any time we are speaking with our representatives and candidates.
My personal heartfelt thanks to all the scientists out there, and to all who support them.
*New York TimesTrump Administration Sharply Curtails Fetal Tissue Medical Research by Abby Goodnough, June 5, 2019