28 October 2010

Rotting on Remand and the Geron trials

I stood before the judge that day
As he refused me bail
I knew that I would spend my time
Awaiting trial in jail
I cried there is no justice
As they led me out the door
And the judge said,
"This isn't a court of justice son, this is a court of law."
...I was picked up on suspicion of something I hadn't done
Here I sit in F Wing waiting for my trial to come
It's a cruel unusual punishment that society demands
Innocent till proven guilty, rotting on remand

"When we started working with human embryonic stem cells in 1999, many predicted that it would be a number of decades before a cell therapy would be approved for human clinical trials," Dr. Thomas B. Okarma, president and chief executive officer of the California-based company, said in a statement.
While a milestone in the technology, the drug candidate is still a long way from being proven and reaching the market. It still faces many years of testing for effectiveness if all goes well in the early stage study.

I know exactly how the protagonist in the song feels. Anyone who has stood before the doctor and told that they have a chronic condition understands these lyrics.

In my case, the doctor explained clearly the day after my operation that I was paralyzed, but with the research going on with stem cells there was a good chance that in the near future something could be done. He refused to sentence me. I would rot on remand.

Some prisoners give up. They refuse to participate in life. Some prisoners, especially those in countries with more rehabilitative prison programmes, go on with their lives. They go to school, write books, study law, even get married and enjoy conjugal visits.

But all prisoners, regardless of how they decide to live their lives inside, all share something in common; they are deprived of their complete freedom, much like those suffering from chronic illnesses. There is no real thriving, there is only "using your time wisely - building time" or "fighting time". Either way, you're a prisoner.

All the evidence regarding the regenerative impact of stem cells for spinal cord injury, blindness, ALS, MS, heart disease, etc. is meaningless if we don't get to the human cures. In the case of spinal cord injury they say they need to go slowly, they can't take big risks because we have quality of life in our wheelchairs. Yes, we can have quality of life, just like a model prisoner, but still rotting on remand.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we take reckless risks. I'm just saying that until the government gets behind the coordination of the entire project, not leave it up to Geron and their investors (who may even run away if the trials aren't successful). I'm not even suggesting a risk like when they tested the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos. There they worried about a very big risk.

One scientist raised the possibility that an atomic bomb might ignite the atmosphere. Another scientist calculated that it could not happen and then after some study they concluded that, "the ignition of the atmosphere was not impossible, just unlikely." But the question was never laid to rest until the day they exploded the first bomb.

Quite the risk, that igniting the atmosphere stuff, but they went ahead to win a war.

We should refuse to become model prisoners and wait patiently. We need to raise our voices together to win the war.

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