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Debate over stem cell research at McMaster University.

Hamilton, ON -- A debate over the ethics of embryonic stem cell research erupted after a Hamilton businessman made a $15 million donation to Canada's first human embryonic stem cell library at McMaster University (McMaster Daily News, June 27, 2007). The claim was that David Braley's donation will transform family medicine and forge new discoveries to treat cancer, Alzheimer's and spinal cord injuries, as well as common illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.

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But pro-life advocates and others condemn the research as unethical. A number of letters to the editor appeared in the Hamilton Spectator newspaper on the issue, prompting the dean of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University, Dr. John G. Kelton, to write and suggest embryonic stem cell research follows government guidelines, is ethical and does not cost human lives (Hamilton Spectator, July 19, 2007).

That, in turn, prompted Dr. Paul Ranalli, MD, FRCPC, a lecturer in neurology at the University of Toronto, to write the following response:

"Dr. John Kelton describes his letter to defend embryonic stem cell research as a 'factual clarification.' It is, therefore, disappointing to see him employ a bait-and-switch tactic, cloaking the ethically suspect--and, so far, futile--research on embryos with the respectability earned by adult-source stem cells, which have been an undeniable and evolving success.

"When Dr. Kelton takes justifiable pride in his 'personal experience of the benefit to my patients,' he is, of course, speaking of the established triumph of adult stem cells, including the now-standard use of adult stem cells in bone-marrow transplants. Everyone supports adult stem cell research.

"On the other hand, there is simply no basis for his claim that 'embryonic stem cells have a much greater potential for cure.' We have been waiting on this promised 'potential' for years now, with little to show for it. Meanwhile, adult stem-cells have steamed ahead to achieve published success in over 70 diseases to date.

"How many published successes in human application are there for embryonic stem cells? Exactly zero. Furthermore, there is, as yet, no answer to the frightening tendency of embryonic cells to turn into malignant tumours.

"An ethical defence from Dr. Kelton is also found wanting, as a reader could easily be misled by his claim that 'no viable human life is destroyed.' In fact, a healthy embryo, allowed to implant in a mother's womb, is quite viable. It is the researcher's destruction of the embryo--to strip-mine its stem cells--that renders it non-viable.

"Scientific progress has rewarded humankind, time and again, with ethically honourable therapeutic breakthroughs that obviate the need to compromise our morality in the short term. With adult stem cells, no patience is required. The successes are real, and their further refinement by ongoing research is far more worthy of the visionary funding gifts provided by Michael deGroote and David Braley."
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Title Annotation:Canada
Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Oct 1, 2007
Words:470
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