Media Downplays Adult Stem Cell Success in Rick Perry Surgery

Opinion   |   Bill Saunders   |   Aug 10, 2011   |   5:33PM   |   Washington, DC

A survey of recent headlines about medical treatment received by Governor and potential presidential-hopeful Rick Perry of Texas could easily lead one to believe that he is a Texas-sized hypocrite when it comes to his opposition to human embryonic stem cell research. Once again, the mainstream media has things seriously wrong.

A Google search turns up articles with misleading titles, such as:  “Stem Cell Critic Receives Stem Cell Therapy,” “Rick Perry has Stem Cell Procedure, Then Works to Bring it to Texas,”  “Gov. Rick Perry Underwent Stem Cell therapy,” and “Report:  Rick Perry Had Experimental Stem Cell Therapy.”

While there are a few exceptions, most of articles that address Gov. Perry’s treatment include titles that could easily lead one to believe that he diaccepted a treatment for his own medical condition that he has historically opposed for the treatment of others.

Of course, if you have the patience to read most of the articles carefully, you will see that the authors are forced to acknowledge that Gov. Perry’s treatment did not use stem cells taken from destroyed human embryos, and thus, he is not a “hypocrite” for opposing treatments that are based upon the use of such stem cells.  In fact, it is the right position to take: opposing unethical research, while supporting ethical alternatives.  Human embryonic stem cell research is morally wrong because it is rooted in the destruction of a human being; but other kinds of stem cell research, not involving the taking of a human being’s life, are not immoral.

Still, suspicious and judgmental reporting regarding Gov. Perry’s treatment—and adult stem cell treatments in general—is typical of the mainstream media, seemingly bent upon advancing embryo-destructive stem cell research while downplaying the dramatic successes achieved through adult stem cell research.  The media often seem blind to the simple (but clear) ethical differences.

Perhaps the most baffling and disingenuous aspect of the articles, however, is their (mis)characterization of adult stem cell research.  For example, one article states that “the use of adult stem cells has not been proven to be effective.”  Another quotes unnamed “researchers” who say that “they’ve seen nothing more definitive than the so-called ‘placebo effect’” from adult stem cell research.

In reality, treatments developed from adult stem cells are being used every day to treat once incurable diseases and serious injuries.  Scientists have been able to help patients suffering from over 70 different diseases and injuries—including brain cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, Crohn’s disease, lupus, heart damage, Parkinson’s disease, Sickle cell anemia, and end-stage bladder disease—using adult stem cells.  It is deeply disappointing that the media continues to treat these life-affirming advances as insignificant, while chasing what may well be a pipe dream that life-destroying embryonic stem cell research will one day yield dramatic results.