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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Survey: Most OK Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Majority of Americans Approve or Strongly Approve; Conflicting Values Noted

Conflicting Values continued...

Thirteen percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed with statements about embryo protection and disagreed or strongly disagreed with statements promoting embryonic stem cell research.

The opposite views were expressed by 21% of the participants.

When asked what their bottom line was -- conducting embryonic stem cell research that might result in new medical cures or not destroying human embryos involved in that research -- 61% sided with research and 37% said not destroying embryos was more important.

Views Split

Participants were also split on how they viewed a human embryo in a Petri dish.

About 30% said they thought such an embryo has "no or low" moral status. About 28% said that same embryo has "maximum" moral status.

A third of the people who expressed "maximum moral status" for such embryos also approved of embryonic stem cell research.

Meanwhile, 17% of those who expressed a belief that embryos in a Petri dish have "no or low" moral status also voiced disapproval of embryonic stem cell research.

"Even for a sizeable number of respondents who fall at the polar ends of the moral status continuum, the commonly held expectation that they will support the corresponding policy extreme does not hold true," write the authors.

Policy Change?

Currently, federal funding may be used to study a small number of embryonic stem cells that were created before August 2001 by embryos that were already destroyed

Participants were asked what they thought the government's policy should be. Their answers:

  • Ban all research to study or create embryonic stem cells: 16%
  • Keep the current policy: 22%
  • Back a proposal to expand stem cell research: 19% (The proposal was described this way: "The government should not fund research to create new embryonic stem cells, but if private funding is used to create new embryonic stem cells then the government should fund research to study those cells.")
  • Allow government-funded research to create and study embryonic stem cells: 40%

Changing Their Minds?

The participants were also asked if their opinions would change in two different hypothetical scenarios.

They were asked what they would think if a year from now, research showed that embryonic stem cells could effectively treat a serious disease like diabetes. Almost half of those who favored current stem cell policy said that would change their views.

Participants were also asked to imagine that a year from now, research developed a way to create new embryonic stem cells without harming or destroying the embryo. About 40% of those who initially backed a total ban on embryonic stem cell research said that would change their views.

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