Stem-cell research—and its political, legal, and ethical implications—is the theme of this week’s issue of THE LANCET. An editorial comments how scientists need to step forward and engage the public to make the case for the future benefits of stem-cell research.
‘But convincing critics of the value of embryonic stem cells poses especially difficult problems’, comments the editorial. ‘Few other scientific advances have challenged such fundamental human values or posed such ethical dilemmas. The field is also unique in that the science has caught the public’s imagination at a much earlier stage than previous developments, due in part to overly optimistic reporting of preliminary findings. The attention focused on stem-cell research unfortunately comes at a moment when there are few tangible clinical benefits to report, although, as many of the papers in this weeks’ issue show, the field is advancing at such velocity that this evidence may not be far off. Stem-cell researchers and other proponents are faced with a challenge: how to win back support for this important work with only promises to bargain with?’
The editorial concludes: ‘The case for stem-cell research cannot be left to patient advocates alone. While the stories of Don Reed [see p 219], and the profile of campaigners such as the actor Christopher Reeve, are important in galvanising public interest, scientists are even better placed to lead a public debate about the potential benefits—and costs—of working with stem cells. It is time for these scientists to step forward’.