Scientists and Researchers Question John Kerry on Stem Cell Research

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

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 29, 2004

Washington, DC ( — A group of 57 scientists and researchers are questioning presidential candidate John Kerry’s claims about the promise of embryonic stem cell research. The letter follows criticism of Kerry’s statements by two leading newspapers.

Saying that Kerry has made the promotion of the controversial research "the centerpiece" of his campaign, the researchers said they were "alarmed" that Kerry would "misrepresent science," and "make exaggerated claims" about the potential benefits of using embryonic stem cells.

The researchers took issue with Kerry’s saying that those who oppose embryonic stem cell research putting "ideology" before science.

"[I]t is no mere ‘ideology’ to be concerned about the possible misuse of humans in scientific research," the letter said. "To equate concern for these [human] beings with mere “ideology” is to dismiss the entire history of efforts to protect human subjects from research abuse."

The letter goes on to say that the statements Kerry has made concerning the possible treatments from embryonic stem cell research "reach far beyond any credible evidence, ignoring the limited state of our knowledge about embryonic stem cells and the advances in other areas of research that may render use of these cells unnecessary for many applications."

"There is too much hype about embryonic stems and at this point there is no data that cures are imminent," said Prof. Micheline Mathews-Roth, a researcher at Harvard, who signed the letter. "At this time we just don’t know and it is inaccurate to get people’s hope up."

"To make such exaggerated claims, at this stage of our knowledge, is not only scientifically irresponsible – it is deceptive and cruel to millions of patients and their families who hope desperately for cures and have come to rely on the scientific community for accurate information," the letter told Kerry.

The signatories touted the use of adult stem cells, saying they have been proven more effective.

They have been used to treat several dozen diseases and medical conditions such as spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, cardiac damage, multiple sclerosis, and so on. The adult stem cells also avoid problems of tissue rejection, the scientists said.

The letter asks Kerry to not piggyback on the issue of stem cell research in his campaign for president.

"Because politicians, biotechnology interests and even some scientists have publicly exaggerated the “promise” of embryonic stem cells, public perceptions of this avenue have become skewed and unrealistic," the letter concludes.

"We urge you not to exacerbate this problem now by repeating false promises that exploit patients’ hopes for political gain," the researchers told Kerry.

Some of the scientists and researchers who signed the letter include Christopher Hook, M.D., a medical professor at the Mayo Clinic, Victor E. Marquez, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, and Anton-Lewis Usala, M.D., CEO of the Clinical Trial Management Group.

Many of the signatories are medical professors and researchers at prestigious colleges such as the Medical College of Wisconsin, University of Washington, Tulane University, Georgetown University Medical Center, and Oregon Health Sciences University.

Some of the sceintists involved in the letter are members of Do No Harm, a coalition of researchers and medical professors who oppose human cloning and promote ethical research.

Related web sites:
Letter to Kerry –
Do No Harm –