Yesterday, Dr. Mehment Oz appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to voice his support for adult stem cell research and to argue that “the stem cell debate is dead,” but instead of giving his statement a fair hearing, Oprah’s website buried and edited Oz’s comments.
Actor Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, was invited on the show to talk about his struggle with Parkinson’s and his foundation’s endorsement of embryonic stem cell research (ESCR).
Fox told Oprah that he believes President Obama’s decision lifting President Bush's restrictions on ESCR was a “step in the right direction” and that “we had eight years where there was no forward progress.” The United States has to make up for a lot of lost time, Fox added.
He also empathized with ethical concerns over ESCR, but said, “I just have faith in our scientists and the research community that they’ll do this ethically and to good purpose.”
After a commercial break, Oprah introduced Dr. Oz, who is the vice-chair and professor of surgery at Columbia University, to explain how stem cells could be used to treat or cure the effects of many diseases.
To demonstrate how stem cells could be used, Oz brought out a human brain. Both Oprah and Fox laughed and joked with Oz as he discussed how stem cells would work in the brain. But Dr. Oz became more serious as he spoke about the future of embryonic stem cell research.
“Now, I’m going to say something that’s going to be a bit provocative. I think, Oprah, the stem cell debate is dead, and I’ll tell you why,” said Oz.
“The problem with embryonic stem cells is that embryonic stem cells come from embryos, like all of us were made from embryos. And those cells can become any cell in the body. But it’s very hard to control them, and so they can become cancer.”
Oprah and Fox then became visibly uncomfortable, shifting around in their chairs, as Oz explained that, contrary to Fox’s earlier testimony, incredible medical advances are being made using adult stem cells and not embryonic stem cells. He claimed that, “in the last year, we’ve made a 10 year advancement.”
Oprah responded in disbelief by saying, “In the last year we’ve advanced 10 years?” Oz explained, “we went places we never thought we would go.”
He then boldly stated that within “single digit years” the medical community could find cures for people with “Parkinson’s disease, but also diabetics and heart attack victims” by using adult stem cells.
Oprah’s website summarized Oz’s argument for adult stem cells with two short paragraphs, hidden 11 pages deep in a 13 page summary of the show:
“Thanks to recent scientific discoveries, Dr. Oz says stem cells aren’t the only solution. ‘We went to a place we never thought we would go. I can take a little bit of your skin, take those cells and get them to go back in time so they’re like they were when you were first made.’”
“Dr. Oz says these skin cells, which contain your genes and are less prone to cancer, will be the ones that are ultimately used to cure Parkinson’s. ‘I think we’re single digit years away from making a big impact in the lives of [people with] Parkinson’s disease, but also diabetics and heart attack victims,’” the website summarized.
Oprah.com not only avoided quoting Oz as saying “the stem cell debate is dead,” but carefully avoided the words “stem cell” and “embryonic’ when quoting or summarizing his remarks.
Oz did in fact say stem cells were the solution, but instead of backing ESCR, he advocated adult stem cells as the future of medical breakthroughs.