President Obama Overturns Stem Cell Funding Ban, Local Stem Cell Patients React

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

Monday, President Obama signed an executive order overturning an 8 year ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. While this controversial move has left many Americans split, Western Slope residents who have had stem cell treatment say it gives them hope.

With a few strokes of a pen, President Obama broke new ground on the future of stem cell research in the US, giving the federal government the green light to fund embryonic stem cell research.

"Rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values," said President Obama. "In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent."

Grand Junction resident Rusty Leech says it's been a long time coming.

"It's huge," said Leech. "We're on the threshold of this amazing discovery."

Ten years ago, Leech was involved in an ATV accident that left him paralyzed below the waist. Since 2007, he's been traveling to a clinic in India to receive stem cell therapy, and has seen promising results. With the help of a walker and special leg braces, he is able to walk a few feet. After his most recent trip, he says he's seeing even more results.

"I developed the ability to urinate on my own, which I haven't been able to do for ten years," said Leech.

Montrose resident Steve Woody says stem cell therapy gave him new hope as well. After being diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer six years ago, he went to Seattle for an experimental adult stem cell treatment. He says his cancer was so severe, doctors told him no other treatment would work.

"Six years later, here I am," said Woody.

He says while using embryonic stem cells is a touchy subject all forms of stem cell research need to be explored, so the millions of Americans with conditions like cancer, MS, diabetes, Parkinsons, and paralysis can have the same chance he had.

"I'm very much pro-life," said Woody. "But I'm also pro-research. Without research, I know I wouldn't be here."

Woody and Leech say even with the President's reversal, they know the firestorm surrounding embryonic stem cell research is far from over. But they say it's a huge step forward in bringing real medical solutions to the US.

"There are a lot of things that have to be -- i's dotted and t's crossed before it becomes reality," said Leech. "But it's coming."

"You have to have this research to progress as a civilization and a people," said Woody.

During Monday's signing, President Obama said there will be strict oversight and guidelines for federally funded embryonic stem cell research. He also expressed his opposition to using stem cells for human cloning.

The National Institutes of Health now has 120 days to draw up those federal guidelines.

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