John Kerry Renews Calls for Tax-Funded Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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

John Kerry Renews Calls for Tax-Funded Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 9, 2004

Washington, DC ( — Over the weekend, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry renewed his call for taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research that observers say hasn’t been effective and doesn’t hold the potential to cure the kinds of diseases some advocates believe.

Kerry’s remarks set up an event by running mate John Edwards today to continue to push the controversial issue.

In his party’s weekly radio address on Saturday, Kerry told listeners that Bush’s position against taxpayer funding of the destructive research was a triumph of "ideology over science."

"At this very moment, some of the most pioneering cures and treatments are right at our fingertips, but because of the stem cell ban, they remain beyond our reach," Kerry said.

Kerry has previously said that one of his first actions as president would be to overturn Bush’s August 2001 policy preventing federal funding of any new embryonic stem cell research conducted after that point.

"We’re going to listen to our scientists and stand up for science. We’re going to say yes to knowledge, yes to discovery, and yes to a new era of hope for all Americans," Kerry said.

However, some scientists have said that embryonic stem cell research is not the panacea for cures that Kerry claims.

Dr. D.G. McKay, a stem cell researcher at the National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Stroke, has called the promises of miracle cures from embryonic stem cells a "fairy tale."

Even advocates of embryonic stem cell research say cures, if they happen, are a long way off.

"One of the things we have to be aware of in the stem cell field is to avoid promising too much," says Dr. Markus Grompe, director of the new Oregon Stem Cell Center at Oregon Health & Science University.

"My prediction is it will be not five, but 10 years before this is going to pay off," Grompe said.

Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s researchers say embryonic stem cell research is nowhere close to helping patients and likely won’t yield a cure for the debilitating disease.

"Alzheimer’s is a more global disease, with an effect on numerous kinds of cells," Steve Stice, a stem cell researcher at the University of Georgia, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper. "That makes it much more difficult for a cell therapy to be effective."

"I just think everybody feels there are higher priorities for seeking effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and for identifying preventive strategies," Marilyn Albert told the Associated Press in June.

Albert, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who chairs the Medical and Scientific Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Association, says there are more promising efforts to treat the disease than waiting on the decades it could take to see results from embryonic stem cells.