Embryonic Stem Cell Research Poll Criticized as Extremely Biased

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 20, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Poll Criticized as Extremely Biased Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 20, 2004

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — Pro-life organizations are criticizing a Harris Poll on embryonic stem cell research, saying it mischaracterizes the process by which embryonic stem cells are obtained and falsely promises cures for diseases that may not happen.

The Harris Poll found that 73 percent of respondents favor embryonic stem cell research and only 11 percent opposing the grisly practice.

However, the poll only said that embryonic stem cells were obtained from "embryos left over from in vitro fertilization" and that "many medical researchers want to use them to develop treatments, or to prevent diseases, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease."

"This is one of the most dishonest polls I’ve ever seen," Richard Doerflinger, of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told LifeNews.com.

"It simply ignores the current issue, which is whether federal funds should be used to encourage the killing of human embryos to make new stem cell lines," Doerflinger explained. "Instead it asks whether stem cell research should be ‘allowed,’ and refuses to mention the central fact that it means destroying embryos."

Douglas Johnson of the National Right to Life Committee says those surveyed are led to believe that the embryos are already dead.

Johnson told LifeNews.com that they are not told that scientists also want to specifically clone human embryos for the sole purpose of killing them for research.

In fact, only three percent of the human embryos left over from in vitro fertilization are available for research and most are not destroyed, according to Doerflinger.

Some of the human embryos left over from in vitro procedures are available to be adopted and adoption agencies have touted such adoptions as a way to maneuver past the often difficult and time-consuming process of adopting a baby or child already born.

Pro-life groups also criticized the Harris Poll question for promising cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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 earlier this month. "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.

"All reputable experts admit that turning this research into treatments, if possible at all, would have to reach beyond these "spare" embryos to mass-produce new embryos for destruction," Doerflinger concluded.

"Of course, the poll nowhere mentions that for the other diseases mentioned — Parkinson’s and diabetes — other avenues that pose no moral problem are far closer to producing treatments," Doerflinger said.

Though released earlier this week, the Harris Poll was conducted from July 12-14.