The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Dilemma

You’ve probably heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. For the past couple of weeks, the news-feeds of my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts have been BOMBARDED with people pouring buckets of ice water over their heads. Pretty soon the inevitable happened: I was nominated. 

In case you are unfamiliar with the challenge, allow me to explain. A friend who took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge nominates you to also take the challenge via social media. Here’s how the challenge works: either you dump a bucket of ice water overhead and/or you donate to the ALS Association. Then you nominated about three other people to take the challenge. This challenge has raised a LOT of money for the ALS Association in the past few weeks. 

ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) is an awful neurodegenerative disorder which slowly and painfully destroys the nervous system, eventually resulting in death. My heart and prayers go out to all those suffering with this terrible disease. 

…. But, I didn’t take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge when I was nominated. And I feel good about that decision. Here’s why I didn’t participate:

– The ALS Association uses adult and EMBRYONIC stem cell research. Obviously I would never donate to an organization that takes advantage of the unborn. 

– Even if I dumped ice water over my head and didn’t donate to the ALSA, I would nominate people (who would in turn nominate people who would…) that might donate to the ALSA and thus encourage embryonic stem cell research. 

– Taking the challenge seemed like more of an opportunity to make a funny video of myself than to actually raise awareness. And narcissism should not be my goal.

Despite confidently choosing not participate in the challenge because of the ALSA’s support of embryonic stem cell research, I can’t help but feel insensitive. 

Do you feel this dilemma too? I know I could never support embryonic stem cell research, but at the same time I wish I could show ALS patients that I care. It makes me seem like I’m insensitively saying, “Well, I’d rather you die than the unborn baby.” Really, I want them both to live! I would gladly support a cause that morally searched for ALS cures! And that is entirely possible with adult stem cell research. People donate blood all the time; why don’t they donate stem cells?

I can’t imagine how bad the pro-life view looks to those with ALS or those with a relative with ALS. Gosh, we must seem awful! Attempting to deny them / their loved ones of a possible cure! The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a lose-lose for Catholics. If we took part, we’d be supporting the murder of babies. If we don’t take part, we appear to be condemning to death those with ALS. 

Here’s where the distinction comes in, a distinction that most pro-choicers will most likely never understand. While the ALSA’s end (finding a cure for ALS) is great, its means is inappropriate. Let me attempt to offer an analogous example. What if we wanted so badly to eradicate the ebola virus that we decided to kill everyone with ebola to minimize the risk of transmission? Would that be morally just–killing the vulnerable in order to save the living? Well, some people might support this…but c’mon, we know that’s wrong. Likewise, it is wrong to kill vulnerable babies in order to save those living with ALS. 

However, we should strive to stop ALS and the suffering it causes through morally just means. ADULT stem cell research would be one option. 

Still, though, I can’t shake the feeling that I am insensitive; after all, I don’t have ALS, and I don’t know anyone who has ALS. How would I feel about the Ice Bucket Challenge if I had a connection to ALS? Gosh, I just don’t know. I would like to think I would still not support the means by which a cure is sought. 

So I guess I will end this decisively, yet indecisively. I am confident in my decision not to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but I wish there were a way for me to show ALS patients/family that I still care.