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Michael J. Fox, Parkinsons, and Stem Cells
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So there's a new political ad airing in Missouri that features Michael J. Fox talking about stem cell research and endorsing the Democratic candidate, Claire McCaskill, and saying the Republican candidate, doesn't support stem cell research.

Here's the ad.

Rush Limbaugh said he thought Fox was either off his meds or exaggerating the effects of the disease for political gain.

Now, in rebuttals to Limbaugh I've heard people saying he basically doesn't understand the disease or how it works. Parkinson's affects movement, but either by forcing rigid movements and small shaking, not the large-scale movements Fox is making in the video. According to a doctor that TNR talked to:

What you are seeing on the video is side effects of the medication. He has to take that medication to sit there and talk to you like that. ... He's not over-dramatizing. ... [Limbaugh] is revealing his ignorance of Parkinson's disease, because people with Parkinson's don't look like that at all when they're not taking their medication. They look stiff, and frozen, and don't move at all. ... People with Parkinson's, when they've had the disease for awhile, are in this bind, where if they don't take any medication, they can be stiff and hardly able to talk. And if they do take their medication, so they can talk, they get all of this movement, like what you see in the ad.

Fair enough. But this New York Times article notes:

Mr. Fox was recently a guest star on several episodes of the ABC drama "Boston Legal," and, presumably thanks to medication, his symptoms there were less noticeable.

Hmmm...I don't know how recent these episodes were, but if the theory is that it is the medication that's making him act this way, then it wouldn't have helped for Boston Legal. It's possible that those episodes were filmed last year and he has degenerated rapidly in the intervening months, or he was having a bad day. If you search YouTube for Michael Fox, though, there's another recent interview with a St. Louis news outlet in which he's behaving similarly.

If he is behaving differently when he's talking about stem cell research or he's in a different setting, then yeah, that's pretty bad. Thing is, you really can't prove it, and it's such a low blow to accuse someone of that Limbaugh really should have known better.

But aside from the issue of whether or not he's exaggerating the effects for political reason, what if he's not? It is still exploitative?

I don't know. I support Federal funding for stem cell research, but the ad makes me uncomfortable, and not in a convincing way. It makes me feel like I'm being manipulated, not like I'm listening to a reasoned argument. Maybe that's effective politics, but I don't like it.

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