By Elizabeth O’Brien

  KITCHENER, June 28, 2007 ( – The Huntington Society of Canada (HSC), a Kitchener-based organization that is committed to finding the cure for Huntington disease, officially supports embryonic stem cell research.

  A June 2002 Board Policy Decision, entitled “Stem Cells and Huntington’s Research: Where We Stand,” written by Dr. Harold Robertson, Chair of the Research Council for the Huntington Society, and Shawn Mitchell, Director of Communications, outlines the organization’s reasons for favouring embryonic stem cell research.

  Posted on the HSC main website, the documents states, “One of the primary missions of the Huntington Society of Canada is to find treatments and, ultimately, a cure for Huntington disease. To accomplish this, the Society is committed to supporting the ethical and legal pursuit of research methodologies that have the greatest potential to achieve this mission. Consequently, the Society recognizes the importance of stem cells to the world-wide research effort in Huntington disease.”

  After describing the debate over embryonic stem cell research, it concludes, “As a leading advocate and funder of Huntington Disease (HD) research in Canada, the Huntington Society of Canada will only support stem cell research conducted in a manner that is consistent with the funding guidelines developed by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and Canadian law, and has been approved under a relevant ethical review process.”

  These guidelines permit embryonic stem cell research and outline various rules, including the restriction that researchers may only use embryos that have been created in laboratories or donated by couples—never bought or sold.

  The statement also acknowledges that many people do not support embryonic stem cell research, saying, “The Huntington Society of Canada recognizes and is sensitive to the fact that members of the Huntington’s community, as well as other individuals and organizations that support the Huntington’s cause, have differing opinions about the use of stem cells in HD research, whether on religious, moral and/or ethical grounds. The Society respects ALL opinions on this issue.”

  While claiming to respect “ALL opinions,” however, the statement concludes with a firm proclamation of the society’s support for stem cell research: “The Huntington Society has a responsibility to ensure that all research options that have the potential to result in a treatment or a cure for HD—subject to Canadian law and research ethical review—are being pursued. Stem cell research is no exception.”

  Towards the end of the statement, Robertson and Mitchell note, “The Society has always supported the ability of donors to direct their gifts to specific areas or initiatives. In keeping with this philosophy, we respect the right of donors to indicate that their donation is to NOT be used for stem cell related research.”

  This selective funding, hoever, is an “ineffective way of sidestepping the issue,” states Jim Hughes, President of Campaign Life Coalition. “In actual fact, it merely puts money from one pocket into the other of an organization that supports unethical practice.” 

  HSC supports embryonic stem cell research, claiming that the “most promising sources for stem cells are embryos and fetuses, because they are easy to identify, relatively easy to grow, and they are known to be able to become many different types of tissue.”

  The report ignores the fact that researchers have never successfully developed any medical benefits from embryonic stem cells. Beside the ethical concerns surrounding the manufacture and storage process, researchers have encountered countless procedural problems such as rejection by the body’s immune system and the rapid multiplication of cells to form cancer tumours. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, can be successfully obtained from a person’s own tissue and have been used for a variety of remedies (see

  Katie Reid, Communications Officer for the Huntington Society Canada, responded to questions from by reaffirming what was stated in the HSC 2002 policy statement on embryonic stem cell research.

  Read the official statement of the Huntington Society:        

  List of Canadian charities that support embryonic stem cell research:

  Read related coverage:

  Adult Stem Cell Research: True Potential Sacrificed for Other Possibilities

  Canadian Stem Cell Expert Speaks Out on Adult vs. Embryo Stem Cell Research

  To contact the Huntington Society of Canada and respectfully voice concerns:
  Huntington Society of Canada
  151 Frederick Street, Suite 400             
  Kitchener, Ontario N2H 2M2
  Tel: (519) 749-7063 Fax: (519) 749-8965             
  Toll Free in Canada: 1-800-998-7398
  Email: [email protected]


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