New England Journal of Medicine to Aggressively Promote Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 17, 2003   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New England Journal of Medicine to Aggressively Promote Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 17, 2003

Boston, MA ( — The world’s leading medical journal says it will aggressively seek to publish papers from research that defends the use of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).

An editorial published Thursday called the legislation passed by the House of Representatives to ban research involving cloned human embryos "legislative myopia." The pro-life bill, co-sponsored by Reps. Dave Weldon (R-FL) and Bart Stupak (D-MI) also bans human cloning.

Jeffrey Drazen, editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine’s editors, said the pro-life bill "is shortsighted and has the potential to put many critical future advances in medicine beyond the reach of patients in the United States."

Drazen said other countries are allowing ESCR and pumping millions of dollars into it — leaving U.S. researchers on the sidelines.

In August 2001, President Bush prohibited federal funding of any new ESCR.

Such destructive research is opposed by pro-life organizations because it involves the destruction of human embryos. Pro-life groups favor adult stem cell research (ASCR), saying it is both more ethical and effective. No patients have yet been cured of any diseases by using embryonic stem cells.

A spokesperson from the medical journal would not answer questions from as to whether it would publish papers touting ASCR or focusing on the downside of research using human embryos. She referred to Drazen, whom she said had left for vacation.

Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, told he doubted whether the medical journal would print papers on ASCR.

If they refuse to publish dissenting articles, "it will show that the editors are making promotion of a political goal supreme over both scientific merit and ethical considerations," Johnson said.

"In real science, and especially in medical research, it is important that both successes and failures are reported objectively," Johnson added.

Though all stem cell papers will first be reviewed by a panel of experts, Drazen has final say on which papers appear.

Gene Rudd, M.D., the associate director of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, said the medical profession shouldn’t endorse ESCR.

"Twentieth Century history should remind us of the horrors of destructive experimentation on human life. Even with meritorious motives (hope for miraculous cures), society should never again cross the line of choosing to kill one life for the benefit of another," Rudd told

Rudd said some scientists are offering a false dichotomy between destructive research and allowing people to suffer from debilitating diseases.

"If these were the only options, any compassionate person would be tempted by the promise of this
technology," Rudd said. "But there are good alternatives — ethical alternatives."

Related web sites:

Jeffrey Drazen’s editorial —