You’ve probably heard of it by now, the Ice Bucket Challenge. Those challenged are supposed either to dump an ice bucket of cold water over their head, or donate to ALS research. Most people do both, posting a video of their icy bath.
It’s a stunt, but has successfully raised awareness of ALS as well as donations for research. But people should consider where their donations go and how the money is used.
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a.k.a. “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) is a fatal, progressive neurological disease. It attacks the nerves that control voluntary muscles, so it is sometimes termed “motor neuron disease”. As the nerves die, muscles weaken and atrophy, including the muscles for breathing; most people suffering from ALS die of respiratory failure. The cause is unknown and at this point there is no cure, and very little that can even slow disease progression.
So, raising awareness about ALS and increasing support for ALS research is a good thing. But whether you participate in a challenge or just donate to important research, where should your donation go?
So far, most of the attention and millions of dollars in donation have gone to the ALS Association. However, the ALSA has admitted that it gives some of its money to embryonic stem cell research and has no qualms about doing so in the future. (Note the ALSA page linked in the above has just recently been changed, and now notes that embryonic stem cell research “has raised ethical concerns.”)
As Rebecca Taylor has pointed out, ALSA also has given money to an affiliate, NEALS, that has given money to a trial that uses stem cells derived from the spinal cord of an aborted fetus.
That trial is being run by the University of Michigan and Emory University, and sponsored by a company called Neuralstem which uses aborted fetus cells for research (“from the donated spinal cord tissue of an 8-week-old aborted fetus.”) All of the Neuralstem trials use cells derived from abortion.
Project ALS, another charity for ALS research, also funds embryonic stem cell research.
But there are alternatives for donations that use only ethical stem cell sources!