Scientists have admitted that promises about embryonic research have been hyped and that patients are not likely to see benefits for decades – if ever. They have slyly confessed, after proponents have whipped the issue into a frenzy, that embryonic stem cell research will not live up to its rapturous claims.

British stem cell expert Professor Lord Winston stated, “One of the problems is that in order to persuade the public that we must do this work, we often go rather too far in promising what we might achieve…I am not entirely convinced that embryonic stem cells will, in my lifetime, and possibly in anybody’s lifetime for that matter, be holding quite the promise that we desperately hope they will.
So, the research is not only unethical and unnecessary (did you see the breaking news in JAMA this week of another success with adult stem cells, this time with diabetes?), but it turns out the real point of it is to provide scientists with human bodies – small though they may be – to experiment upon.

But this alone wouldn’t persuade people or win votes. Heartstrings must be pulled, tears shed and indignation raised. The nature of politics requires a constituency and a band of scientists saying they want tax dollars to do experiments on human bodies won’t cut it.

That’s where the manipulation of patients came in. The grand promise of Christopher Reeve walking out of his wheelchair if the right person were elected became typical of the outrageous hype surrounding this debate. Patient advocacy groups became so entrenched that some placed embryonic stem cell research as a priority over research that can produce near-term benefits, or bought into the claim that embryonic stem cells are the elixir to cure all ills. NIH scientist Ron McKay explained this phenomenon when he stated that embryonic stem cells do not have the ability to treat Alzheimer’s but this was being touted because “people need a fairy tale.