Religion News Service reports that as of Tuesday, August 19, 2014, the ALS Association has received $22.9 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.9 million during the same period last year. This is largely due to the viral popularity of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, a simple dare thought up by ALS patient Pete Frates in which participants nominate one another to either videotape themselves being drenched by a bucket of ice water or donating $100 to ALS research.
But anti-abortion advocates are raising the alarm that some of the ALS donations could be going to fund embryonic stem cell research. Rev. Michael Duffy, in a blog post on Patheos.com this week that went viral, warned challenge participants to make sure to fund a “morally acceptable alternative” to the ALS Association, the leading ALS research firm. LifeSite News also reported that ALSA runs its clinical trials with a consortium that uses stem cells originating from electively aborted fetuses.
The ALSA website does tout the benefits of “all kinds of stem cell research.” However, ALSA spokesperson Carrie Munk explained to RNS in an email this week that the organization primarily funds adult stem cell research. “Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells … this research is funded by one specific donor, who is committed to this area of research,” she said. “The project is in its final phase and will come to an end very soon.”
CharityNavigator.org gives the ALSA four stars, its highest rating. Forbes.com reported comments from Barbara Newhouse, ALSA’s president and CEO, about what they were planning to do with the donations. “My answer is this: invest prudently in helping people with ALS and their families and caregivers in the battle against the disease, while resolutely pursuing all avenues to extend, improve and ultimately save lives.”
According to the ALSA, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Patients suffer first from lack of muscle control and can end up completely paralyzed. The life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis. ALS strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and as many as 30,000 Americans have the disease at any given time.