John Kerry Challenged on Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Presidential Debate

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

John Kerry Challenged on Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Presidential Debate Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 9, 2004

St. Louis, MO ( — Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was challenged on the issue of embryonic stem cell research in Friday night’s presidential debate. He was confronted by a voter who pointed out that adult stem cells have been effective in clinical trials while the use of embryonic stem cells have not.

Elizabeth Long told Senator Kerry, "thousands of people have already been cured or treated by the use of adult stem cells or umbilical cord stem cells. However, no one has been cured by using embryonic stem cells."

"Wouldn’t it be wise to use stem cells obtained without the destruction of an embryo," Long asked.

Kerry started out avoiding the question, telling Long that he respected the pro-life beliefs that were behind it.

"You know, Elizabeth, I really respect your — the feeling that’s in your question. I understand it," Kerry said.

Kerry defended his position in favor of embryonic stem cell research by discussing Michael J. Fox and Christopher Reeve, victims of Parkinson’s and spinal cord injuries, respectively.

He said they favor the use of human embryos for research and that he doesn’t want to deny them the hope of miracle cures from it.

Avoiding the question of the effectiveness of the unproven research, Kerry said, "I think we can do ethically guided embryonic stem-cell research."

However, according to Do No Harm, a group of scientists who want a greater focus on the ethical considerations of the research, "To date, not one human patient has been treated with embryonic stem cells, and their success in the lab has been very limited."

"In contrast, non-embryonic stem cells, including stem cells derived from adult tissues and cord blood, are showing success in treating Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury, heart disease, sickle cell anemia and other diseases," the group said.

Kerry advocated the use of the more than 100,000 human embryos that are currently frozen at fertility clinics, but failed to mention that he has co-sponsored a bill allowing research to also use human cloning to produce more human embryos for research.

President Bush defended his decision to fund adult stem cell research but prohibit federal funding for the new destruction of any human embryos.

"Embryonic stem-cell research requires the destruction of life to create a stem cell," Bush said. "I too hope that we’ll discover cures from the stem cells and from the research derived. But I think we’ve got to be very careful in balancing the ethics and the science."

"To destroy life to save life is — it’s one of the real ethical dilemmas that we face," Bush added.