Thursday, September 11, 2014

Ice bucket challenge raises ethical concerns

Excerpted from "Send Your Ice Bucket Challenge Donation to Ethical, Successful Adult Stem Cell Research," LifeNews. August 21, 2014 — You’ve probably heard of it by now, the Ice Bucket Challenge. Those challenged are supposed either to dump an ice bucket of cold water over their head, or donate to ALS research. Most people do both, posting a video of their icy bath. It’s a stunt, but has successfully raised awareness of ALS as well as donations for research. But people should consider where their donations go and how the money is used.

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) is a fatal, progressive neurological disease. It attacks the nerves that control voluntary muscles, so it is sometimes termed “motor neuron disease”. As the nerves die, muscles weaken and atrophy, including the muscles for breathing; most people suffering from ALS die of respiratory failure. The cause is unknown and at this point there is no cure, and very little that can even slow disease progression.

So, raising awareness about ALS and increasing support for ALS research is a good thing. But whether you participate in a challenge or just donate to important research, where should your donation go? So far, most of the attention and millions of dollars in donation have gone to the ALS Association. However, the ALSA has admitted that it gives some of its money to embryonic stem cell research and has no qualms about doing so in the future.

But there are alternatives for donations that use only ethical stem cell sources! Here are a few of my favorites: The Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center (MSCTC) at the University of Kansas Medical Center is only a year old, but is starting an increasing number of clinical trials and educational efforts. The MSCTC does not do any embryonic or aborted fetal stem cell research. The John Paul II Medical Research Institute in Iowa City is doing research in several areas including ALS, and does not support embryonic stem cell research.


Dr. David StevensCMDA Member and Senior Fellow for Family Research Council David Prentice, PhD: “As healthcare professionals, it’s heartening to see excitement for support of research into treatments for disease, and to raise empathy and awareness for people who suffer with life-threatening conditions. Let’s make sure that excitement is channeled in ways that maintain bedrock principles of medicine—to preserve and protect life.

“Research in particular runs the risk of venturing into paths of ‘progress by any means,’ so it’s important to keep principle first. The ALS ice bucket challenge fired the imagination and support of many and provided a fun way to get more people involved, but questions about where the donations were going and for what uses showed that some organizations were not committed to life-preserving principles in their supported research, but rather to that ‘progress by an means’ ethic.

“Research using embryonic stem cells or aborted fetal tissue relies on the willful destruction of young human lives. Let’s keep our eyes on the real prize and promote only life-affirming research, such as adult stem cells. We don’t have to sacrifice lives or ethics for medical progress.”


CMDA Ethics Statement – Human Stem Cell Research and Use
Scientific Demagoguery in the Stem Cell Wars by Dr. David Stevens

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