“Twenty years ago we decided we wanted an image beyond food, based on strong virtues,” said Paul D. Schrage, chief marketing officer for the McDonald’s Corporation (in the Wall Street Journal of December 18, 1987).  “We put up a value structure that’s difficult to penetrate.  It makes us dependable.”

Dr. Bernard Nathanson author of Aborting America, and a tireless pro-life activist, has recently succeeded in penetrating behind McDonald’s “value structure.”  What he has found is dismaying evidence of a connection between the fast food giant and medical research involving the use of fetal pancreatic tissue.

The March 1988 issue of The Interim reported that the Sansun Medical Research Symposium – a June 1986 meeting in California of scientists who had made extensive use of fetal pancreatic tissue in their diabetes research – had received financial support from the Kroc Endowment.  This fund, Dr. Nathanson claimed in a letter to Chief Executive Officer Michael Quinlan, had been set up by the McDonald’s Corporation.  The hamburger chain, charged Nathanson, was implicated in an odious (and growing) industry – the systematic harvesting of tissue from the victims of late abortions.

As a result of the allegations contained in the letter, Dr. and Mrs. Nathanson met with McDonald’s Vice-President, Richard G. Starmann in New York on January 21 of this year.  Mr. Starmann’s purpose for meeting with Nathanson was to assure him that “…at no time during its 20 year existence did the Kroc Foundation receive any grants or contributions, directly or indirectly from McDonald’s Corporation.

Starmann’s disclaimer of corporate responsibility for this kind of medical research seems final.  However, as it turns out, much has been left conveniently unsaid.

Bernadell Inc. – the company Dr. Nathanson has established to research bio-ethical issues – has learned that the Kroc Foundation was set up and funded by Ray Kroc (founder of McDonald’s) through a contribution of stock in McDonald’s Corporation.  Ray Kroc is listed as the sole donor to the Kroc Foundation in 1965.  A former chairman of the McDonald’s Corporation, Mr. Fred Turner, was in 1982, serving as Vice-President of the Kroc Foundation.  His address on the Kroc Foundation’s tax return for that year was McDonald’s.  In the same year, the second of three scientific symposia funded by the Kroc Foundation and dealing with the use of fetal pancreatic tissue in the treatment of diabetes was held in Santa Ynez, California.

The Kroc Foundation was dissolved in 1985.  However, the evidence that a close relationship existed between it and the fast food chain, obliges the McDonald’s Corporation to “redress these wrongs” of funding unethical medical research, Nathanson believes.

At the dissolution of the Kroc Foundation, money remaining was used to set up the Kroc Endowment, writes Starmann to Dr. Nathanson.  This “one time and final gift of the Kroc Foundation,” he continues…consisted of numerous grants to medical institutions primarily for the purpose of establishing lectureships for these institutions.

Dr. Nathanson then accuses Starmann of making an “egregiously inaccurate claim” when in his letter he insists that the “Kroc Endowment funds were not used for any research of the type which you have described.”  Richard Starmann recalls only a “single lectureship at which reference to such research was presented.”

Bernadell, Inc. has in fact, identified three symposia generously funded by the Kroc Foundation at which research using fetal tissue to treat adult diabetes was the only subject of discussion.  All of these took place in California: 1979, in Los Angeles; 1982, in Santa Ynez and in 1986 in Santa Barbara.  In the last case the authors of the collected papers acknowledge their debt.  The “…first Sansum Symposium would not have been possible without the support of the…Ray A. and Robert L. Kroc Leadership & Visiting Scholars Endowment.”

One of the collection of papers funded by the Kroc Foundation describes the approach the investigators took when retrieving fetal tissue.  Rather than request permission from women who had elected to have abortions (for such an approach might be understood as coercion), the “…nurse presented the consent form for the abortion to the mother.  The form would give three choices as to the disposal of the tissue:

1)                  Allow the hospital to dispose of all tissue in the usual fashion after pathologic examination.

2)                  Take the abortus for a burial.

3)                  Allow researchers to use the tissue in experiments that may lead to discoveries of better treatments for persons with chronic diseases.

For a mother even obscurely aware of the growing human being within her, it is clear that guilt may well drive her to the third choice.  Thus the investigators report that “…the consents noted a 92 per cent rate of approval from the first 100 women and that these women in general verbalized the comfort they experienced from feeling that ‘some good would come of the decision to have an abortion.’”

In other words, for this study alone the bodies of nearly 100 aborted babies were cynically extorted from their mothers for the purpose of experimentation.

In the face of this and other indisputable evidence from the scientific literature the Kroc Foundation itself funded, Dr. Nathanson requested (in a March 7 letter) that Richard Starmann reacquaint himself “regarding the factual material in this dispute” in order to spare himself and the McDonald’s Corporation “further embarrassment.”

As an act of good will intended to “restore a balance to its philanthropic activities in the area of fetal research,” Dr. Nathanson asked (in his original letter) that “…the Kroc endowment…pledge an equal sum in support of projects designed to maximize fetal health and life.”

This reasonable request for support of responsible scientific research Richard Starmann interprets as an unconditional demand that “…McDonald’s Corporation pledge funds in support of Right to Life and/or other related projects which you might suggest.”  He then reiterates McDonald’s firm refusal to submit to a thinly-veiled attempt at fund-raising.  His letter follows with accusations of “purposeful distortion of plain facts” and of a desire to “malign McDonald’s good name and community image with this issue.”

No satisfactory response has been received by the Nathansons from McDonald’s Corporation.  Its long-standing record of philanthropy and community service remain compromised by a close association with what Dr. Nathanson has described in another place as “this obscene spin-off of the abortion industry.”

On April 18, Bernadall, Inc. released the following statement:

“We must ask those who are opposed to this inhumane and offensive kind of ‘research’ to join with us and cease to patronize all McDonald’s food outlets, and mount an international boycott of these operations until a satisfactory response is received.”