The Magazine

All the News That’s Fit to Forget

Why you’re not hearing much about embryonic stem cells these days.

Nov 28, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 11 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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In the trial, cardiac stem cells were used to repair the severely damaged hearts of 16 patients. It was the first time this had ever been done in humans. After one year, the ejection fraction or “pumping efficiency” of the hearts of eight patients had improved by more than 12 percent. All patients whose progress was followed underwent some level of recovery. .  .  . Although this was an early stage trial and larger studies are needed, scientists believe the promise it shows has huge implications.

How did the New York Times report this story? It didn’t. The L.A. Times? A blog entry. USA Today? Nada. San Francisco Chronicle? At least it was in the paper—on page A16, under the hardly descriptive headline “Regimen Shown To Aid Heart Patients.” And so it goes. 

Imagine if a human trial using embryonic stem cells had shown improvement to damaged human hearts. You can just see the banner headline in the New York Times and the breathless announcements on the network news. The thought experiment makes blatantly obvious the malpractice that plagues reporting in this field—which is doubly regrettable, since not only are editors and reporters undermining the media’s already tarnished reputation for objectivity, but many suffering people and their families still have not heard the hopeful news generated by the ethical exploration of regenerative medicine.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, a legal consultant for the Patients Rights Council, and a special consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

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