White House Fails in Its Commitment to Support Human Stem Cell Research Conducted “According to the Highest Ethical Standards”

Date: 07/16/1999

Support for research based on human embryo destruction at odds with stated ethical concerns

ALEXANDRIA, VA–In a July 14 statement reacting to the final meeting of President Clinton’s National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) on embryonic stem cell research, the White House has announced its support for federal funding of research that relies on the deliberate destruction of human embryos to obtain stem cells.

Despite efforts to reach a national consensus, The White House statement remains ethically objectionable. On the one hand, the White House claims to be obeying a current congressional ban on funding any research in which human embryos are destroyed. But then it says the NIH will soon release guidelines for using stem cells obtained by destroying human embryos, to “ensure that the cells are obtained in an ethically sound manner.” Of course, the Congressional ban is based on the correct judgment that there is no “ethically sound” way to destroy human embryos for research purposes.

“To say, on the one hand, that you cannot support the deliberate destruction of living human embryos to harvest their stem cells, but that you will, on the other hand, pour millions of taxpayers dollars in support of research that you know can only take place using materials derived for that destruction, is an exercise in sophistry, not ethics,” said Frank E. Young, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Reformed Theological Seminary, Metro Washington, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Dean Emeritus of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. “Such reasoning is obviously intended not to clarify current law, but rather to circumvent it.”

Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, agrees with the White House, NIH that human stem cells research shows great promise in advancing treatments for a variety illnesses. The Coalition, however, rejects the deliberate destruction of human embryos in the name of advancing such treatment. Instead, the Coalition urges federal support for morally and ethically acceptable alternatives, such as adult human stem cell research, which many scientists believe to be equally–or more–promising in its potential to advance medical science.

Experts with Do No Harm are available for comment. For further information, please call Gene Tarne or Michelle Powers at (703) 684-8352, or visit our website at: www.stemcellresearch.org.