To the Editor:
The R.I. Catholic’s November 15, 2007 editorial “Embrace Moral Medical Research” proclaims a message that cannot be emphasized enough: Use of embryonic stem cells is not only immoral but also unnecessary. For years researchers have obtained effective stem cells without destroying embryos. In fact, adult stem cells have been routinely used in cancer therapy for nearly two decades. The latest research using non-embryo sources of stem cells, including umbilical cord blood, placenta and patients’ own adult stem cells, has successfully treated spinal cord injuries, heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and dozens of other conditions.
Consider the story of Laura Dominguez, a patient who was told by American doctors that she had no hope of recovering from an automobile accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down. After she received an adult stem cell transplant in Portugal by Dr. Carlos Lima, she regained sensation down to her hips and was able to walk over 1400 feet with the use of braces.*
Dennis Turner’s improvement from Parkinson’s disease is equally amazing. The disease caused the typical mask-like facies, severe tremors, difficulty walking and completely disabled his right arm despite medication. In 1999 Turner sought out Dr. Michael Levesque to treat him with his own neural adult stem cells. After his adult stem cell transplant, Turner went on safari and was able to indulge in his passion for big game photography, even scrambling up a tree to avoid being trampled by a rhinoceros.*
How many illnesses have embryonic stem cells cured? None. Instead, there have been catastrophic results with embryonic cells producing the wrong tissue, forming tumors and triggering immune rejection.
Every dollar expended on the fantasy of embryonic stem cell potential contributes to the deaths of innocent pre-born human lives and steals resources away from the reality of adult stem cell therapy. We should not squabble over funding for embryonic stem cell research. We should demand an end to it.
Martin Bednar, MD, PhD
(Neurosurgeon, researcher in the field of neurorestoration)
North Stonington, CT
Michelle Cretella, MD
(Member of Do No Harm, a coalition of physicians and scientists promoting ethical research)
* NB: Both examples are congressional testimony available at the Web site for Do No Harm, www.stemcellresearch.org.