Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stem Cell Miracles and Campaign Promises : Thomas-Trounson vs. Hiltzik of the Times

The Proposition 71 campaign of 2004, which has filled the coffers of more than 500 researchers and institutions with $1.4 billion, was the subject today of a discussion about miracles.

Specifically did the campaign promise miracles?

The story begins with a column May 27 by Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times about the "Son of CIRM" initiative, Proposition 29, on the June ballot. It seeks to fund more medical research with $800 million handed out by an organization patterned after the stem cell agency.

In the column, Hiltzik did not speak well of the agency and said the 2004 campaign promised miracles.
In a letter today in the Times, J.T, Thomas, chairman of CIRM, and Alan Trounson, president of CIRM, said the campaign did not promise "miraculous cures."

Hiltzik filed a riposte this afternoon on his blog, quoting from TV campaign ads featuring Christopher Reeve and Michael J. Fox. Hiltzik also wrote,
"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.' Shortly after the measure passed, Samuelson was appointed to the stem cell program's board. 
"Do these ads amount to promising 'miracles'? Given that the essence of scientific research is that no one can predict the outcome, to assert as fact that 'lives will be saved by Prop. 71' is plainly to promise something downright extraordinary, if not outright miraculous. 
"Yes, this is the language of advertising, not research, but for Trounson and Thomas to pretend that the ad campaign somehow promised merely 'good science' and not specific outcomes, as their letter suggested, is (at least) miraculously disingenuous."

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