By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
In the midst of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge craze, the John Paul II Medical Research Institute (JPIIMRI) in Iowa City began a social media campaign to encourage pro-life Christians and Catholics to consider the ethical implications of their donations to the ALS Association.
In an article that went viral on Facebook, the JPIIMRI reported that the ALS Association, whose sole focus is on ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) research and awareness, is not opposed to use of embryonic stem cells in its medical research. Such research destroys human life at the embryonic stage. The Catholic Church teaches that the human being is to be respected as a person from the moment of conception and that his or her rights are to be recognized. Among those rights is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.
For this reason, JPIIMRI encouraged people participating in the ice bucket challenge to instead give donations to the JPIIMRI general research lab, which uses only adult stem cells (and does not involve the taking of human life). Several diocesan priests, parishioners, and Iowa City Young Adult Catholics have chosen to donate to the JPIIMRI instead.
Alan Moy, JPIIMRI vice president, said the organization has received support from all 50 states and 19 countries. Donation totals were not available at press time.
Jay Kamath, JPIIMRI CEO, said, “Thanks to the social media effort, we’ve gotten on the radar screen …. The effort has raised awareness within Iowa and the nation of the institute.”
JPIIMRI does not specifically focus on ALS, though it fits under the category of neurodegenerative diseases, one of the institute’s four main research areas. “We do work on ALS research in our lab. What we do, however, is broader in scope,” Kamath said.
He added that people who want their donations to go toward ALS research can ask for the donation to go toward the neurodegenerative branch of their research, which also includes Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. “People can send their checks and say they want their funds to specifically go toward ALS research and those funds will focus on that core area of their work that includes ALS research.”
Donations can be mailed to John Paul II Medical Research Institute, 540 E. Jefferson St., Suite 202, Iowa City, IA 52245.
(Anne Marie Cox, editor of The Catholic Mirror of the Diocese of Des Moines, contributed to this story. See a related article on the ethical ramifications of donating to ALSA. )