Public Testimony at the Release of the Do Not Harm Founding Statement by Nigel M. de S. Cameron, PhD

Date: 07/01/1999

July 1, 1999

Senator Brownback, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me offer three comments.

1. It is a sad irony that in this year in which we have for the first time, it is said, gone to war in defense of human rights, we should find ourselves debating the pros and cons of using undeniable human beings – fellow-members of the human race – as experimental objects. The central significance of the human rights tradition for our discussion is underlined by the name of the one international bioethics treaty which has been set in place, the European Convention on Biomedicine and Human Rights, which takes as its default a markedly conservative line on the use and abuse of the human embryo.

2. Let it be clear that one does not need to take the view that unborn human beings, from their earliest stage, by virtue of their membership in Homo sapiens, deserve the full rights and protections of the law. We may take that view. We may take the view that we do not know if that is so. Indeed, we may take the view that the question is unanswerable. Or we may believe otherwise, but acknowledge that a great number of our fellow citizens either grant full moral status to the embryo or do not know its/his/her status.

My point is this: every one of these positions should lead us to the view that public policy should protect the embryonic human being from that final denial of all dignity, death as a consequence of laboratory experimentation.

3. The least reputable for all the arguments which have been used in favor of the destructive use of human embryos is being touted as the best: the old, tawdry, and pernicious claim that the ends justify the means, which lies at the heart of the case which HHS and NBAC have made for the vivisection of the embryo. At present we do not in fact know if serious benefit lies in embryo research which cannot otherwise be obtained. It may well be that it does not. Yet even if it does, the mark of a civilized culture is its refusal to countenance the pursuit of even good ends by unethical means. It is only a degraded bioethics that will recommend anything else.

There should be no doubt that the issue is as grave as it could be. As the second millennium draws to close we are being urged to put abandon the single most treasured value and achievement of that thousand years of civilization: the unique dignity of every member of our human species.  Human dignity, like peace, is indivisible.


Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Ph.D. Dr. Cameron chairs the Advisory Board for The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in Bannockburn, Illinois and is president of Strategic Futures Group, LLC, which specializes in higher education consulting. Former Provost and Distinguished Professor at Trinity International University, Dr. Cameron has written widely on issues in bioethics. He is the founding editor of the international journal Ethics & Medicine and is the author of several books. He is a frequent guest commentator on network television, appearing on ABC Nightline, PBS Frontline, CNN, and the BBC. He also testified at the Congressional hearings on human cloning.