Published: 5th September 2005
In the light of Robert Winston’s comments about embryonic stem cell research reported in the Times this morning, The Christian Medical Fellowship has called on the government and media to give a more balanced and accurate picture of the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells.
Professor Robert Winston, President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, will express his reservations about the promises of embryonic stem cells, at 6pm today at a Festival of Science in Dublin.
Peter Saunders, CMF General Secretary of CMF, said, ‘The day is now closer when scientists will attempt to implant embryonic stem cells into human patients. But major safety, logistic and ethical issues have yet to be addressed. We applaud Robert Winston’s honesty but wish that the government and media had been more up front with the public over this vital issue.’
“The British public have been consistently misled into believing that embryonic stem cells are a panacea for treating degenerative diseases. This is the direct result of the Government’s failure and unwillingness to highlight the dangers and to rectify misconceptions about the properties of the more ethical alternative of adult stem cells.
“The Government’s selective interpretation and presentation of scientific data is both irresponsible and dangerous - because it raises false hopes in vulnerable people. Honest and balanced reporting of the facts should always take precedence over the prestige and profit motives of the government and biotech industry. Sadly however the Government continues to spin the facts whilst continuing to act in defiance of a UN ban on therapeutic cloning.
“The international community, another fact that rarely gets media coverage, increasingly views Britain as a rogue state in this research”.
Verified accomplishments of adult (non-embryonic) stem cell research are already providing hope and therapy for patients suffering from heart muscle injury, diabetes and brain damage from stroke with realistic promise for treating other diseases on the horizon. But we hear virtually nothing of this from the British government or media. Adult stem cells are versatile, require limited, if any, manipulation, and are readily available from a number of sources. The cost of their clinical application will be far less and there are no ethical concerns in their use - making them acceptable to virtually all patients and healthcare providers.
Embryonic stem cells, by contrast, may now be easier to obtain than they were, but they remain difficult to develop and maintain. They are also unstable and mutate in culture. There are also significant risks of malignant potential.
Peter Saunders added: “In addition to safety considerations, the CMF remains implacably opposed to embryo cloning because it cannibalises and destroys human embryos as a means to an end.
Saunders concluded, ‘Rather than pursuing unethical and unproven research into embryos, the government should be putting taxpayers’ money into ethical research that will lead to us getting the most affordable cures for patients, more quickly.’
Philippa Taylor (CMF Head of Public Policy) 020 7234 9664
Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668
Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225
Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.
CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.