WASHINGTON, July 6, 1999 -- Research using stem cells derived from destroyed human embryos is unethical and scientifically unnecessary, according to a statement issued late last week by 100 bioethicists, scientists, and legal scholars.
The group calls for a continuation of the ban on federal funding for such research.
"The possibility of crossing a moral and ethical bridge that will result in a backlash by the American people is very real," former FDA Commissioner Dr. Frank Young, one of the signers of the document, said at a news conference Thursday in the Capitol. The central question about using embryos to derive stem cells, said Young, is, "Are we prepared to sacrifice the vulnerable for the potential benefit of the rest of us?"
Pro-life Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), who hosted the news conference, said that the Department of Health and Human Services erred in January when it issued a legal opinion that using stem cells derived from embryos, as long as the cells were not actually extracted using federal funds, does not violate the 4-year-old Congressional funding ban on embryo research.
"This language is clear," said Brownback. "The law is clear. We made it clear we were not willing to use tax dollars to destroy human embryos."
Brownback said that he was "still looking at options" for strengthening the ban, setting up a likely fight with proponents of stem cell research.
But signers of the document said that other sources of human stem cells not from destroyed humans, such as adult cells, appear to hold equal promise. Even if there were no other sources, they said, the end does not justify the means. In all embryo research, "what is being destroyed is a member of the human species," said Dr. Edmund Pellegrino, director of the Center for Clinical Bioethics at Georgetown University. "The societal consequences of this are grave, indeed."
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