.- Cardinal Justin Rigali has responded to new draft guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research, warning that they allow for the use of more than just “leftover” embryos. The draft rules also divorce biomedical research from its “necessary ethical foundation,” thus enabling some human beings to use and mistreat others for their own goals, he stated. He also warned against growing efforts to fund with federal dollars the creation and destruction of human embryos for research through in vitro fertilization and cloning methods.
“Without unconditional respect for the life of each and every member of the human race, research involving human subjects does not represent true progress. It becomes another way for some human beings to use and mistreat others for their own goals,” said Cardinal Rigali, commenting in a Tuesday statement as Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
“Suffering patients and their families deserve better, through increased support for promising and ethically sound stem cell research and treatments that harm no one.”
The cardinal said that the draft guidelines reflect a policy approved but never implemented by the Clinton administration in 2000.
“However, the Clinton policy was limited to embryos that had been frozen, to ensure that parents had time to consider the decision to donate them for research; the new guidelines are broader in allowing destruction of newly created embryos that were never frozen, increasing the prospects for a rushed and biased consent process,” he said.
This runs counter to the claim that the research funding involves only embryos that would otherwise be discarded, Cardinal Rigali charged.
“For the first time, federal tax dollars will be used to encourage destruction of living embryonic human beings for stem cell research – including human beings who otherwise would have survived and been born,” he wrote.
He said it was “noteworthy” that the proposed guidelines do not allow federal funding for research using embryos specially created for research purposes through in vitro fertilization or cloning.
“We can hope that the NIH and Congress will continue to respect this ethical norm, and will realize that the alleged 'need' for violating it is more implausible than ever due to advances in reprogramming adult cells to act like embryonic stem cells.”
The cardinal warned that congressional supporters of human embryo-destroying research have already said that they will pursue “a more extreme policy.”
“The Catholic bishops of the United States will be writing to Congress and the Administration about the need to restore and maintain barriers against the mistreatment of human life in the name of science, and we urge other concerned citizens to do the same,” Cardinal Rigali’s statement concluded.
On April 17, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the opening of a public comment period for draft guidelines concerning human embryonic stem cell research.
The guidelines will be published for review on April 24, 2009 and will be open for comment for 30 days following.