John Kerry endorsed Nancy Reagan's efforts to help find a cure for Alzheimer's disease and yesterday challenged the Bush administration to relax restrictions on human embryonic stem cell research to pursue potential cures for that and other illnesses.
Ethical questions raised by the use of human embryos can be resolved through "good will and good sense," Kerry said in the Democrats' weekly radio address. Researchers can find the cures that are there, he said, "if only they are allowed to look."
The Democrats' presumed candidate to face President Bush in November said that Mrs. Reagan "told the world that Alzheimer's had taken her own husband to a distant place, and then she stood up to help find a breakthrough that someday will spare other husbands, wives, children and parents from the same kind of heartache."
The Bush-Cheney campaign defended the president's record on stem cell research as ensuring that it is conducted "in ways that respect human dignity and help build the culture of life."
"Under President Bush's thoughtful leadership, for the first time federal dollars are supporting human embryonic stem cell research consistent with the ethical guidelines" he put in place, said campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel.
Bush signed an executive order in August 2001 that limited federal financing for stem cell research to the embryonic stem cell lines then in existence. The field is controversial because obtaining the cells requires the destruction of five-day-old human embryos. Some conservatives liken the process to abortion.
Kerry said stem cells "have the power to slow the loss of a grandmother's memory, calm the hand of an uncle with Parkinson's, save a child from a lifetime of daily insulin shots or permanently lift a best friend from his wheelchair."
Shortly before Reagan's death, Kerry and 57 other senators asked Bush to relax the federal funding restrictions, and Mrs. Reagan has long argued that using stem cells from embryos could lead to cures for a number of diseases.
Since she spoke out in May for renewed government commitment to stem cell research, some experts have said that using stem cells to find a cure for Alzheimer's, because of how it attacks the brain, would pose a far more daunting challenge than other conditions.