.- The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) is urging the U.S. Senate to reject bill S.5, which would provide taxpayer money to support embryonic stem-cell research, a technique that requires the destruction of human embryos. The Senate began considering the bill this week.
“The NCBC endorses and supports government funding of all ethical forms of stem-cell research,” said NCBC president Dr. John Haas in a statement. “However, the proposed S. 5 legislation, if enacted into law, would reverse years of legal and social tradition of providing protection from non-therapeutic research on human beings.”
S.5 would intentionally create “a subclass of human beings, to be exploited for research purposes,” the NCBC said. It would also “fund research on cells derived from embryos from fertility clinics. However, embryonic stem-cell researchers have indicated that these sources of embryonic stem cells would be insufficient for the very purposes for which this legislation is proposed.”
“The use of public money for morally troubling research that has not yielded one single clinical benefit, when there are a number of ethical stem cell research alternatives that have treated, successfully, thousands of patients, is a misuse of public monies,” the NCBC statement noted. “There is not one peer-reviewed published paper on even a single human clinical trial that has used human embryonic stem cells.”
The NCBC is instead asking the Senate to support another bill, S. 30, which would “promote morally acceptable forms of stem-cell research, by funding all avenues of stem-cell research that do not involve harming or destroying a living human embryo.”
S.30 includes a proposal to study the feasibility of banking amniotic and placental stem cells, modeled on the banking of bone marrow and cord blood stem cells that has saved the lives of patients with dozens of conditions.
According to the NCBC, there are hundreds of papers on the clinical successes using adult sources of stem cells, including umbilical cord blood and placental sources.
In a statement on Tuesday, the White House expressed its opposition to the bill as well as President George W. Bush’s intention to exercise his power of veto if it is passed.
While the Democratic-led Senate seemed certain to pass the legislation on Wednesday, reported Reuters, it is unclear if passage would come with the needed two-thirds majority to override a veto.
In the first and only veto of his presidency, President George W. Bush rejected a similar measure last year. He had imposed restrictions to federally funded stem-cell research in 2001, which excluded research with embryos.
The NCBC noted that President Bill Clinton also opposed the creation of human embryos for research purposes.
“No matter what fate may be planned for the developing human being by others, the government must still maintain a posture of respect towards human life,” the NCBC statement said.
The center reminded the Senate that since the federal government first established federal regulations for the protection of human subjects in medical research in 1975, human embryos have been included under the federal definition of “fetus” and treated as “human subjects,” deserving of protection from harmful or destructive research.