Friday, August 22, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Ethical Concerns Discussed

To my friends who have mentioned their qualms with participating in the ice bucket challenge and donating to the ALS Association due to ethical concerns: I sympathize with your concerns. I can not ethically get behind the use of embryonic stem cells due to my belief that life begins at conception. On the flip side, I know of the long-term pain and the ultimate loss caused by ALS.
To that end, I decided to contact the Association directly to ask about their research. I spoke with a nice woman named Regina who works for their New York office. I asked her specifically about the use of research funding for embryonic stem cell research. She answered me verbally and then offered to email me some text I could quote. A portion of that text follows:
"The ALS Association primarily funds adult stem cell research. Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC), and the stem cell line was established many years ago under ethical guidelines set by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS); this research is funded by one specific donor, who is committed to this area of research. In fact, donors may stipulate that their funds not be invested in this study or any stem cell project.
Many labs have replaced ESCs with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). These iPS cells begin as adult human skin cells but are then reprogrammed to become stem cells, which are then ready to become other cells types."
In short, the money you may contribute today will not go toward embryonic stem cell research. You may even specifically stipulate that with your donation. The iPS research sounds promising and is created using adult skin cells. I encourage you to participate in the challenge and donate to ALS. Though they state that only one donor is funding embryonic stem cell research, I would specifically stipulate where you do not want your funds utilized.