Many Americans approve of stem cell research for curing serious diseases

June 29, 2011 in Biology / Biotechnology
University of Nevada, Reno, sociologist Mariah Evans, lead author of the study published this month, "US attitudes toward human embryonic stem cell research." Credit: Photo courtesy of Theresa Danna-Douglas, University of Nevada, Reno.

While research using human embryonic stem cells has roused political controversy for almost two decades, little has been done to scientifically assess American attitudes on the subject. New research from the University of Nevada, Reno provides decision-makers with a much clearer picture of how their constituents truly feel about the subject.

The study, "U.S. attitudes toward human ," published this month in the journal, Nature Biotechnology, was conducted by University of Nevada, Reno faculty members Mariah Evans (lead author) and Jonathan Kelley, who surveyed a large, representative national sample of 2,295 respondents in 2009. Their most significant findings include:

Evans, a sociologist, also found it interesting that the majority of respondents trusted their own judgment most when deciding on their approval or disapproval on issues, rather than looking to their church or other authorities, such as governmental ethics committees.

"The vast majority, over two-thirds, said that in deciding whether it is right to allow these treatments, they would follow their own judgment," she said. "Only 4 percent gave greater moral weight to the Catholic Church than to themselves, and even among committed church-going Catholics, only about one in five defer to the church on these matters."

The study also revealed that despite the Catholic Church's firm opposition, support for the use of stem cell research for the cure or treatment of serious diseases was almost as strong among Catholic laity as among Protestants. Even those in the most disapproving demographic group, churchgoing fundamentalist women, were still more in favor than opposed.

More information: Nature Biotechnology … 6/full/nbt.1891.html

Provided by University of Nevada, Reno

"Many Americans approve of stem cell research for curing serious diseases" June 29, 2011