Strike one. No one that I have ever encountered has a problem with the destruction of individual human stem cells. It is not the stem cells that are vulnerable, but the embryos that the stem cells come from. This is not an insignificant point. I firmly believe that if it becomes technically possible to derive pluripotent stem cells without destroying embryos, there would not be the ethical outcry that we have now. It is not destroying the stem cells that are ethically troubling, but the fact that we destroy human organisms to get them. A "faith and ethics" reporter should know this.
True care needs also to address the ethical issues surrounding their care – including the research done to arrive at a treatment. For Sullivan, medical decisions cannot, and should not, be made in a moral vacuum. For the Catholic church, embryonic stem-cell research tops the list of concerns.
"The ethical issues arise where the vulnerable are threatened," Sullivan says, referring to the stem cells destroyed in labs.
He expects such research to get a boost in the coming years as the Bush administration comes to an end, taking with it the White House ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.Strike 2. There is no ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The federal government spends millions of dollars funding this research. They merely restrict the research to the embryonic stem cell lines that were created before 2001. In fact, JivinJ reports that the recent "breakthrough" for ESCR took place with a federally funded stem cell line.
Funding for this study came partially from Geron, which hopes to develop medical products to help heart-attack survivors. Other funding came from the federal National Institutes of Health.Once again, even a modicum of research would have shown that his statement was false. Lastly:
Meanwhile, moratoriums restricting stem-cell research in other countries, such as Germany and Australia, are nearing an end, scientific journals are calling for more stem-cell and other research, and Democratic presidential candidates are letting it be known they support the work.Strike 3. While not as egregious as the other errors, this one is quite an overstatement, at least in Germany. It is true that a panel in Germany has considered overturning their restriction of ESCR, it is far from a done deal.
Saying that the moratorium is nearing the end is simply sloppy. It may not be so at all. Faith and ethics reporters are supposed to be using facts to support their points, not their crystal balls.
However, despite this week's events, the issue is far from decided in Germany and fierce division is anticipated when The German Parliament begins to debate the issue later this year.
The worst thing about reporting like this is that it is so common. I could point out numerous examples of reporting as bad as this almost every day when articles talk about stem cell research. They get it wrong so many times it is amazing. A reporter's chosen profession compels them to investigate and check on the facts before writing on them. Is it too much to expect them to do their job?