There is one scene in “The Accidental Advocate” that is “devastating” for Dr. Shoukrat Mitalipov.
Claude Gerstle, the paralyzed protagonist of the documentary, moderates a discussion between religious leaders regarding their positions on the issue of stem cell research.
Gerstle asks the Rev. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for National Catholic Bioethics Center, what he would say to a patient recently paralyzed and being offered stem cell treatment.
Pacholczyk states that he would counsel the patient to carefully consider the ethics of the situation, but that the treatment is “a temptation to evil.”
Gerstle responds, “I would rather be evil and better.”
For Mitalipov, a leading stem cell researcher at Oregon Health and Sciences University, the scene is disheartening because the film examines the issue from a patient’s point of view.
“He had a patient in front of him and still wouldn’t shift his philosophical position. It shows how such arguments can really slow progress,” said Mitalipov.
Mitalipov will speak at the Salem Progressive Film Festival’s screening of the movie on May 14. The film begins at 7 p.m. at the Grand Theater, 191 High Street NE, in Salem. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for students.
Dr. Kevin Ahern, a senior instructor of biochemistry and biophysics at Oregon State University, will also speak after the screening and shares Mitalipov’s frustration over the politicization of science.
“Stem cell research and global warming are the poster child topics for the politicization of science, an ill-informed, and scary, policy of the (George W.) Bush administration. I am very much an advocate of ethical considerations of the application of any technology, but I also think every ethical consideration must weigh the plusses and minuses of the matter being considered,” said Ahern.
Ahern agreed that the strength of the documentary lies in its ability to put a human face on the potentially positive application of stem cell treatments.
“‘Accidental Advocate’ portrays hope effectively without tipping the scales in the direction of either unrealistic expectations or excess advocacy,” said Ahern.
Opposition to stem cell applications seems to be rooted in misinformation, said Mitalipov. He recently led the first team of researchers to successfully derive embryonic stem cells by reprogramming of genetic material from skin cells while studying rhesus macaque monkeys. New cell-replication techniques, he hopes, will allow research to move away the general public’s preconception of stem cells as only originating from human embryos.
For more information, visit the film series website, http://www.salemprogressivefilms.net.