NRL News

The California Institute for Regenerative Mendacity

by | Jun 6, 2012

By Wesley J. Smith

Here’s how the pro embryonic stem cell/human cloning advocacy game is played.

First, the public faces of patients and their loved ones promise CURES! CURES! CURES!

Then, when you call the campaign on the mendacity, they claim, “The scientists have never said that in the literature.”

Of course they didn’t. They let those who don’t know better and are relying on what they have been told by Big Biotech pitch the false woo.

Proposition 71 that brought us California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) blazed that advocacy tactic. I remember the media’s swooning about campaign surrogates’ predictions that California’s Medicaid costs would shrink from the new treatments developed by CIRM grants, which would also stimulate an economic boom from all the businesses created by CIRM-funded breakthroughs.

None of that happened, but that hasn’t stopped the CIRM from planning a ballot renewal in 2014. But those old false promises are an impediment, and so now they are revising history by claiming they never promised CURES!.  Los Angeles Times (of all places) blogger Michael Hiltzik isn’t buying. From “Did the California Stem Cell Program Promise Miracle Cures?”:

In a letter to the editor published Wednesday, [CIRM heads, Alan] Trounson and [Jonathan] Thomas asserted, “No ads for Proposition 71 promised miraculous cures.” So let’s look at the record. It may be true that no ads for Proposition 71 used the term “miraculous cures,” but then neither did I. What did the ads promise, however?…Reeve taped an ad shortly before he died, in which he observed, “Stem cells have already cured paralysis in animals. Stem cells are the future of medicine.” Michael J. Fox taped an ad in which he urged, “Vote yes on 71, and save the life of someone you love.” Joan Samuelson, a leading Parkinson’s patient advocate, is shown in another ad asserting, “There are more Americans than I think we can count who are sick now, or are going to be sick in the future, whose lives will be saved by Prop. 71.”

It wasn’t just the ads. The talking heads and campaign surrogates went wild exaggerating the potential, as the camp followers in the media paraded right along joyfully playing tambourines.

The promise of CURES! from the CIRM did not end with winning the Proposition 71 campaign in 2004. Take a look at this 2010 CIRM-produced advocacy video, particularly starting at about the 2 minute mark.


 Notice the video makes an affirmative promise of a cure for ALS using stem cells. Here’s the pertinent transcript:

ALS Patient: There is incredible research taking place right now dealing with ALS. I am very thankful that it is taking place. It will benefit down the road people, I am sure. It will find a cure.

Scientist: Stem cells will be a benefit for ALS in a number of different ways. The way we are using them in our CIRM disease team grant is to generate from human embryonic stem cells a cell type that lives in the neighborhood of the cells that die…and transplant those in the spinal cords, first of animals and ultimately of people, to try and provide a better neighborhood for those motor neurons so they don’t die. The CIRM ALS team has the goal for initiating a human clinical trial four years after the launch of our project, which was a few months ago.

Not, “might.”  Not, “could.”  But “WILL!” And the strong prediction of a human clinical trial just two years from when this post is written. We’ll see, but I am not holding my breath.

To recap:  In 2010, the CIRM engaged in the same false advocacy as in the Proposition 71 campaign.  It follows the same old pattern:

Make the promise of a cure for ALS;

By the patient, with whom we deeply empathize;;

The scientist–meaning the CIRM–allows the improper promise to stand uncorrected;

Then, the scientist declares that embryonic stem cells “will be a benefit” for ALS patients, a statement that also should not be made unequivocally;

Expectations of human trials just down the road;

In in a video produced by the CIRM and paid for with Californians’ borrowed money.

And that’s why it should be called the California Institute for Regenerative Mendacity!  The leopard has not changed its spots.

Editor’s note. This appears on Wesley’s great blog.