As I have said many times before, I'm fed up of the inaccuracy in the newspapers whenever stem cell research is reported, and I'm fed up of chronicling the mistakes in articles on stem cell research. How difficult would it be for the newspapers to report the facts?
First of all, the headlines and full articles never properly distinguish between embryonic stem cell research and non-embryonic sources of stem cells. The headline always implies that those who are opposed to stem cell research are against curing diseases and lines up President Bush against cures, along with prolifers, against people like Tony Blair who is reported this week as backing "stem cell research". It fails to mention that we are not at all against stem cell research but only against embryonic stem cell research. I would give my own bone marrow, blood or other non-vital organs (like skin cells or fat) for research if that would help and I cannot understand why the same organisations that enthusiastically back embryo research are against widespread national umbilical cord stem cell banking.
Not only is it personally irritating to those of us who strongly support adult stem cell research but are being branded as anti-science, but this is the worst sort of inaccuracy in journalism. It is a basic inaccuracy that is endlessly repeated in the newspapers which should not be recurring time after time. It fuels misinformation. It distorts the debate. It misleads the public. It stimulates support for embryo research as though it is the panacea for all ills, and as though it is the only position any one pro-science can take, which is not justified by the basic facts of embryonic and adult stem cell research. We should not conduct our public debates and journalism on the basis of half-truths and misinformation. Laws should not be made as a result of myths when the scientific fact that embryonic stem cells have caused cancer and would be rejected by the immune system is clear for all to see. Vast amounts of taxpayers money should not be ploughed into funding nonsense research. However anti-prolife you are, we should all agree that human life should not be destroyed when there is a perfectly wonderful and more effective means of treating patients using stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood or adult tissue.
It generates anti-americanism against President Bush who has massively increased funding for umbilical cord banking. Instead of reporting the facts accurately, the newspapers make the prolife pro-adult stem cell research harder to argue simply by leaving it completely out. It is bloody unfair. And Blair, we shouldn't let you get away with presenting yourself as pro-science when you back embryonic stem cell research in order to score headlines, and the reality is that patients would be better off if you backed adult stem cell research only.
Take this article in the Observer today for example, entitled Blair to defy Bush over stem cells: PM will publicly back California's research into disease treatment despite White House's strong opposition What a load of nonsense!
1. No where in the article does it explain that stem cell research is an umbrella term and that adult stem cell research and umbilical cord stem cell research are perfectly wonderful alternatives to embryonic stem cell research
2. It points out the moral objection to embryonic stem cell research without pointing out that there are strong scientific objections to embryonic stem cell research, ie. the problem that it might not work (cancer and immune rejection and getting hold of sufficient cells, and genetic instablity, and exploitation of women to acquire enough eggs)
3. It implies that opposition to embryonic stem cell research is effectively opposition to researching and finding cures. How different the entire article would be and its impact on public opinion if the article was to state that President Bush is very pro-adult stem cell research and the headline was pro-stem cell research just against embryo research.
4. This sentence is wrong on several counts: "Pro-life and religious groups oppose stem cell research because one source of the cells is human embryos created during fertility treatment and subsequently destroyed." - Firstly, prolifers DO NOT OPPOSE STEM CELL RESEARCH. WE SUPPORT STEM CELL RESEARCH!!!!!!! [adult and non-embryonic] The Catholic Church in Korea was opposed to cloning embryos but it provided FUNDING FOR ADULT STEM CELL RESEARCH which was actually much more useful than anything Blair and the pro-embryo research lobby have done. Moreover any one following the debate knows that the embryo researh lobby want to create and destroy embryos for stem cells. They aren't left over from IVF, and even if the embryos were discarded after IVF why would that make it right anyway?
One interesting point in the Observer article today is that Downing Street included an internal memo about the disappointing progress of the UK Stem Foundation. Not surprising to anyone who knows that the real progress in medical research is with adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cell research at all.