Christopher Hitchens on having cancer

Christopher Hitchens at home

Christopher Hitchens sends back a bulletin from the land of cancer treatment: “Tumortown.” Vanity Fair‘s teaser:


Peach pits, open chakras, macrobiotic diets: cancer patients get more unsolicited advice than they could possibly follow. Cutting-edge medicine seems to offer limitless options, too—until the author runs smack into the lethal idiocy of the godly opponents of stem-cell research.

Hitchens notes

I did get a kind note from a Cheyenne-Arapaho friend of mine, saying that everyone she knew who had resorted to tribal remedies had died almost immediately, and suggesting that if I was offered any Native American medicines I should “move as fast as possible in the opposite direction.” Some advice can actually be taken.

Hitchens is taking a philosophical attitude.

“Until you have done something for humanity,” wrote the great American educator Horace Mann, “you should be ashamed to die.” I would have happily offered myself as an experimental subject for new drugs or new surgeries, partly of course in the hope that they might salvage me, but also on the Mann principle.

Hitchens concludes:

…last August a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ordered a halt to all government expenditure on embryonic stem-cell research. Judge Royce Lamberth was responding to a suit from supporters of the so-called Dickey-Wicker Amendment, named for the Republican duo who in 1995 managed to forbid federal spending on any research that employs a human embryo. As a believing Christian, Francis [Dr. Francis Collins, father of genome-based treatment] is squeamish about the creation for research purposes of these nonsentient cell clumps (as, if you care, am I), but he was hoping for good work to result from the use of already existing embryos, originally created for in-vitro fertilization. These embryos are going nowhere as it is. But now religious maniacs strive to forbid even their use, which would help what the same maniacs regard as the unformed embryo’s fellow humans! The politicized sponsors of this pseudo-scientific nonsense should be ashamed to live, let alone die. If you want to take part in the “war” against cancer, and other terrible maladies too, then join the battle against their lethal stupidity.


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