Pro-Life Leader Bashes Media Coverage of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 29, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Leader Bashes Media Coverage of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Paul Nowak Staff Writer
June 29, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Focus on the Family founder and chairman Dr. James Dobson is calling the media’s coverage of stem cell research a "scandal." He focused particularly on the repeated misconception that President Bush’s policy restricting the use of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research is preventing the discovery of cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

"Embryonic stem cells are not going to be the source of a cure for Alzheimer’s," Dobson told journalists at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "Are you aware that not one human being anywhere in the world is being treated with embryonic stem cells? There is not a single clinical trial going on anywhere in the world, because (embryonic) stem cells in laboratory animals create tumors. Nobody will use them."

Dobson explained that adult stem cells, which do not require the destruction of human life, have shown great promise in the treatment of diseases such as diabetes.

"This needs to be reported to the American people," Dobson said. "They don’t know this — especially when Ron Reagan is all over the place telling everybody that our government won’t help fund a cure for Alzheimer’s, which his wonderful father had."

Dobson urged journalists to be fair and accurate in their reporting, and cited a plaque in the National Press Club that states "the public journal is a public trust."

"To ignore the scientific realities, to fail to report that embryonic stem-cell research is the less promising course of action, to allow people who are suffering to develop false hope about possible treatment breakthroughs, is an unconscionable betrayal of the public trust," said Dobson.

But keeping the public trust on the stem cell issue, Dobson added, means more than reporting scientifically accurate information. He urged media representatives to realize that the ethical problems with using human life for research, even if the embryos used are leftovers from fertility clinics.

"The immorality of such logic is appalling," Dobson said. "Prisoners condemned to death would also, undoubtedly, be excellent research subjects. Should we then introduce legislation allowing scientists to remove organs from and conduct experiments that take the lives of these men and women before they are executed by the state for their crimes?"

Media bias on the embryonic stem cell issue has been apparent on many occasions, from ignoring scientific fact to printing erroneous information.

In January, an Associated Press article about New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey signing a stem cell research bill, stated "Stem cells are produced in the first days of pregnancy and help create the human body."

The following day the Associated Press issued a "clarification" that offered the following correction: "The story should have explained that embryonic stem cells used for research are grown in a laboratory and do not involve pregnancy."

The correction was inaccurate, however, as the New Jersey legislation does explicitly involve pregnancy, and even allows the embryo to be implanted and grow for up to nine months before being "harvested."

In November, the Louisville Courier-Journal ran a story covering a symposium sponsored by Right to Life Educational Foundation of Kentucky, but its coverage, including the misleading headline "Cloning Opponents to Make Major Push to Ban Research," was "a near slanderous falsehood," according to Michael Janocik, the pro-life group’s Associate Director.

Janocik said his organization does not oppose all stem cell research, only that which involves the destruction of human life.

The article stated that "University of Louisville and University of Kentucky officials say the importance of such work cannot be overstated."

"Sure it can," retorted Janocik. "And [it] has been for several years. To date, there are no reported human therapies from either embryonic stem cell research or human cloning. The therapeutic stem cell breakthroughs to date are from adult, not embryonic stem cells."

After a three-hour symposium featuring perhaps the finest minds the subject has to offer, the Courier-Journal didn’t report what they said," Janocik said. "Instead, absent the slightest hint of objectivity, it blindly parroted the political spin of the brave-new-world crowd."