Myths About Embryonic Stem Cell Research


Myth: "Human life begins in the womb, not the Petri dish"
Reality: Actually, it usually begins in the fallopian tube, but it can also begin in a Petri dish.

The testimony of modern science is clear on this point: "At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun."

Considine, Douglas (ed.). Van Nostrand's Scientific Encyclopedia. 5th edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976, p. 943. See Moore, Keith L. Essentials of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p.2; Dox, Ida G. et al. The Harper Collins Illustrated Medical Dictionary. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993, p. 146; Sadler, T.W. Langman's Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3; Carlson, Bruce M. Patten's Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw_Hill, 1996, p. 3.

The issue is not whether human life is present, but how society ought to treat it.

Even President Clinton's bioethics advisors said: "We believe most would agree that human embryos deserve respect as a form of human life..."
- National Bioethics Advisory Commission on stem cell research, September 1999 (emphasis added)
"Stem cell research" refers to research using stem cells that come from embryos or other sources, such as adult tissue, placentas, or umbilical cord blood. The only way to obtain embryonic stem cells, however, is to kill the living human embryo. The embryos killed for their stems cells are about a week old and have grown to about 200 cells.

Embryonic stem cells have not helped a single human patient, while adult stem cells and similar ethically acceptable alternatives have helped hundreds of thousands.

Myth: "Excess embryos are going to be discarded anyway"
Reality: Not necessarily. Today, parents can preserve "excess" embryos for future pregnancies as well as donate them to other couples. Under proposed NIH guidelines, parents will be asked to consider having them destroyed for federally-funded research instead.

In a recent study, 59% of parents who initially planned to discard their embryos after three years later changed their minds, choosing another pregnancy or donation to infertile couples. New England Journal of Medicine, July 5, 2001.

With the NIH guidelines, these embryos might have already been destroyed.

What's more, we now know that the scientists calling for federal funds have themselves moved on to creating human embryos solely to destroy them for stem cells. So much for the "discarded anyway" argument.

But what scientists or parents might do with the embryos is not the issue. The issue is:

Should the government use taxpayers' money for research which requires destroying human embryos?
No Administration of either party has ever done so.

We believe such unethical research shouldn't be done at all. But if anyone does so, it must be at their expense and on their conscience - not that of the American taxpayers.

Embryonic stem cells have not helped a single human patient. By contrast, adult stem cells and other ethically acceptable alternatives have helped hundreds of thousands of patients, and new clinical uses expand almost weekly.

"A clear majority of Americans supports stem cell research"

Of course they do - but what type of stem cell research do they support?

"Stem cell research" refers to research using various types of stem cells. Stem cells that come from adult tissue, placentas, or umbilical cord blood can be retrieved without harming the donor. The only way to obtain embryonic stem cells, however, is to kill the living human embryo.

Typically, poll questions do not make this distinction.

When Americans are asked if the government should fund stem cell research which requires destroying human embryos, 70% of Americans say "NO."
And when choosing between funding stem cell research including embryonic stem cells vs. stem cell research without embryonic stem cells, Americans support the latter approach 67% to 18%. (International Communications Research, June 8, 2001. See http://www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2001/01-101.htm.)

Throughout American history, no Administration of either party has funded research which relies on destroying live human embryos.

Embryonic stem cells have not helped a single human patient or demonstrated any therapeutic benefit. By contrast, adult stem cells and other ethically acceptable alternatives have helped hundreds of thousands of patients, and new clinical uses expand almost weekly.

Myth: "Embryonic stem cells are the most effective for treating disease"
Reality: Actually, they're not. Embryonic stem cells have not helped a single human patient or demonstrated any therapeutic benefit. By contrast, adult stem cells and other ethically acceptable alternatives have already helped hundreds of thousands of patients, and new clinical uses expand almost weekly. Consider:

Juvenile diabetes

Adult Pancreatic Islet Cells
15 people with serious Type I (juvenile) diabetes became "insulin free" after adult pancreatic islet cell transplants; 9 still need no insulin injections.
- American Diabetes Assoc. Report, June 24, 2001

Embryonic Stem Cells
No person has benefitted.
Spinal cord injury

Adult Immune-System Cells
A young woman rendered paraplegic by a car accident can move her toes and legs after injection of her own immune-system cells into her severed spinal cord.
- Toronto Globe and Mail, June 15, 2001

Embryonic Stem Cells
No person has benefitted...

Immune deficiency

Adult Bone Marrow Stem Cells
2 children born without immune systems ("bubble boy" syndrome) have left their sterile environment and lead normal lives after bone marrow stem cell treatment.
- Science, The Washington Post, April 28, 2000

Embryonic Stem Cells
No person has benefitted...
Corneal repair

Adult Corneal Stem Cells
Several legally blind people can now see more clearly after their corneas were reconstructed with corneal stem cells.
- New England Journal of Medicine, July 13, 2000

Embryonic Stem Cells
No person has benefitted...

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