One of the latest viral social media trends is the “Ice Bucket Challenge” which is a campaign aimed at raising funds for and awareness of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. Countless individuals, athletes, celebrities and more have posted a video of themselves dumping a bucket of ice water on their heads on social media.

From Wikipedia

“The Ice Bucket Challenge, sometimes called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, is an activity involving dumping a bucket of ice water on one’s head or donating to the ALS Association in the United States. It went viral throughout social media in summer, 2014. The challenge dares nominated participants to have a bucket of ice water poured on their head. One common stipulation gives 24 hours from the time they are nominated to complete the dare; otherwise, the participant is asked to donate money to charity.”

While the intention of this campaign is commendable, and the effect of the disease, truly tragic, it has been noted that the Ice Bucket challenge poses some moral issues for Catholics.

The crux of the dilemma is that the money being raised goes to the ALSA, which funds Embryonic Stem Cells research. Stem Cells are “undifferentiated biological cells that can differentiate into specialized cells and can divide” which offer promising genetic therapy treatments for many diseases, including ALS.

The ALSA who receives  the donations from this campaign, states on their website:

“Adult stem cell research is important and should be done alongside embryonic stem cell research as both will provide valuable insights. Only through exploration of all types of stem cell research will scientists find the most efficient and effective ways to treat diseases.”

The Catholic Church is an advocate of Stem Cell Research

CCC#2275 “One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival.”

But the Church raises a legitimate objection when the source of stem cells are embryos, either created and unused for in-vitro pregnancy (which the Church opposes as well),  or created for the specific purpose of research.

CCC#2275 “It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material.”

In his 2003 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope Saint John Paul II stated:

“Any treatment which claims to save human lives, yet is based upon the destruction of human life in its embryonic state, is logically and morally contradictory, as is any production of human embryos for the direct or indirect purpose of experimentation or eventual destruction.”

[For More Catholic Teaching on Stem Cell Research, Click Here]

So before participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge, consider finding a moral acceptable alternative such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JP2MRI) the that has been pointed out by Father Michael F. Duffy in a serious of blog posts.

From The John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JP2MRI) website:

The John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JP2MRI) is excited to kick off 2014 with a One Million Dollar Capital Campaign Drive to start the process of developing adult stem cell therapies. Please read to learn how you can help us reach our goal and make a difference in the lives of many and to learn why your support is more important now than ever before! The JP2MRI focuses on regenerative medicine in which adult stem cells will be used to treat patients with chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, pulmonary disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Seventy-five percent of healthcare costs are due to chronic diseases, with many of these conditions lacking any medical cures. Adult stem cells have the potential to repair damaged organs, which in return would decrease healthcare costs and restore an improved quality of life for patients. Americans find it very difficult to get access to adult stem cell clinical trials, and consequently many travel overseas and spend thousands of dollars on questionable or fraudulent stem cell therapies.

The Institute has made substantial progress in adult stem cell research. However, before the Institute can initiate adult stem cell clinical trials, the FDA requires that adult stem cells need to be manufactured under Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP). This term simply means that the stem cells have to be developed in a sterile environment or “clean room” (see figure below right). The cost to build and operate the clean room is anticipated to be 1 million dollars. Funds raised from the One Million Dollar Capital Campaign Drive will be used to help build the clean room, lease additional laboratory space, hire scientific personnel and purchase necessary laboratory equipment to develop adult stem cell therapies.

Most universities and medical institutes in the United States continue to pursue embryonic stem cell research and often receive federal and state funding to support it. The annual growth of NIH funding towards human adult stem cell research is one fourth as much as the funding devoted to embryonic stem cell research. Over 300 medical and scientific organizations support embryonic stem cell research. The Institute continues to work to promote ethical research, especially in the area of adult stem cell research. The JP2MRI relies on our loyal supporters to help us uphold our mission and continue our ethical research efforts. In order to continue our innovative research and be competitive with those institutions promoting embryonic stem cell research, we need your financial support.

The JP2MRI has the support and endorsement of all Iowa Catholic Bishops. In the past year, JP2MRI has partnered with the Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin Knights of Columbus and has reached out to the State Deputies from all 50 states to inform them about our Institute’s important work. Thanks to financial support from the local Knights and private donors, the Institute has raised funding in 2013 to advance adult stem cell research and that research has resulted in important developments. JP2MRI now needs additional funding to initiate the process of developing FDA-approved adult stem cell therapies.

The JP2MRI is at a critical juncture to expand its operation to help more people around the country. Besides JP2MRI’s emphasis on pro-life ethical standards, a key feature that sets the Institute apart from the more well known and larger nationally based not-for-profit medical foundations is that a majority of dollars donated to JP2MRI are directly used by it to further scientific research and not simply expended for administrative fees or non research activities. Another differentiating feature of JP2MRI is that we focus on research that will not only help people in the future, but will help patients now.

Please remember that financial gifts to JP2MRI are considered a charitable donation to a non-profit organization and which may be deducted on your income tax return. As always, thank you very much for being a loyal supporter and for your efforts on behalf of John Paul II Medical Research Institute. We look forward to making great strides in 2014 and updating you on our Institute’s progress.

To donate, click here or checks can be made payable to:

John Paul II Medical Research Institute
540 E. Jefferson St.
Suite 305
Iowa City, IA 52245

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