Family urges stem-cell support

The Coates family met with Sens. Robert Torricelli and Jon Corzine last month to urge for support of stem-cell research in the fight to cure juvenile diabetes.

By: Chris Karmiol
   A Hightstown family recently took a trip to Washington to meet with Sens. Robert Torricelli and Jon Corzine.
   The trip was not to Washington, D.C., however; it was to Washington Township in Gloucester County where the two legislators held a town hall meeting last month.
   They showed up to the town hall meeting in support of a lobbying campaign known as Promise to Remember Me, for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. For the campaign, children with juvenile diabetes and their families have been meeting with legislators to discuss the illness. The hope of their campaign is that when decisions on research dollars and other connected issues are made, these elected officials will indeed promise to remember the children and their stories.
   Hightstown lawyer David Coates, attorney for the East Windsor Regional Board of Education, attended the recent meeting with his sons, Malcolm, 12, and Charlie, 9, who suffers type-1, or juvenile, diabetes.
   "Charlie gave both of them Dragonball Z action figures," Mr. Coates said. "I think the senators were genuinely pleased. One of them said, ‘I never received an action figure before.’ "
   Advocates for type 1 diabetes medical research have met with scores of policy-makers across the country on this campaign, including seven New Jersey officials, Sen. Corzine, Sen. Torricelli and U.S. Rep. Rush Holt among them.
   "(We hope) to encourage them to continue a high level of funding for the National Institutes of Health and to encourage them to stand up and be counted on stem-cell research," Mr. Coates said.
   At the town hall meeting, Mr. Coates said Sen. Torricelli called Charlie, who showed up dressed in a baseball uniform, up and introduced him to a crowd of several hundred. Telling the boy’s story, the senator remarked to the crowd: "It’s very hard to say ‘no’ to Charlie."
   "We were gratified they were supportive," Mr. Coates said.
   During their private meeting before the town hall session, Mr. Coates said the senators expressed their support for stem-cell research, which is vital to finding a cure for type-1 diabetes, among other diseases. Other politicians disagree with the position.
   "President (George W.) Bush made a bad compromise last year which has put medical research and people’s health in jeopardy for reasons to do with a very strained theological interpretation," Mr. Coates explained of the president’s decision to allow limited federal funding for research on existing stem-cell lines only. "I was glad that our senators both expressed their support for stem-cell research, unfettered by arbitrary religious dictates."
   Mr. Coates added that the senators also expressed their support for cloning research, another important avenue for a diabetes cure which President Bush has denounced and which comes before the Senate this month in a bill banning the practice.
   About 1 million people in the United States suffer from type-1 diabetes. Charlie, a student at the Perry L. Drew School, was diagnosed with it at the age of 2. His life, his father said, is normal except for the need to constantly monitor and adjust insulin levels through injections and pumps.
   "It’s a disease that’s always there," Mr. Coates said. "It requires constant watch, awareness and management."
   Although there is no cure for type-1 diabetes, Mr. Coates is confident there will be.
   "I go to research presentations, I read things," he said, "What we need is money and the government to get out of the way."
   While he agrees that certain limits should be placed on cloning, Mr. Coates said that some of the limits are there merely to appease the right wing of the Republican Party.
   "It’s poor public policy," he said, "and it’s a disservice to people who are suffering."