.- The National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Friday announced its request for public comment on draft guidelines concerning human embryonic stem cell research. One pro-life congressman warned that the proposal could lead to “clone and kill” cell harvesting, and that the research cheapens human life.
According to the NIH, the guidelines are to implement President Barack Obama’s March 9 Executive Order 13505, which lifted restrictions on the federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research. “These draft Guidelines would allow funding for research using human embryonic stem cells that were derived from embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF) for reproductive purposes and were no longer needed for that purpose,” the announcement states. “Funding will continue to be allowed for human stem cell research using adult stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells.”
The guidelines describe the conditions and informed consent procedures required during the production of human embryonic stem cells for research. The stated purpose of the guidelines is to help ensure that NIH-funded research is “ethically responsible, scientifically worthy, and conducted in accordance with applicable law.”
The NIH says that funding will not be provided to researchers who use embryos created for research purposes. The agency adds that somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) will not be allowed under the guidelines.
The guidelines will be published for review on April 24, 2009 and will be open for comment for 30 days.
Acting NIH Director Raynard Kington said the NIH thought the draft guidelines would be “a huge boost for science.”
“This was the right policy for the agency at this point in time,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
Kington claimed there was “compelling broad support” in the scientific community and in the general public for the research use of “leftover” human embryos from in-vitro fertilization procedures.
Referring to other methods of securing embryonic stem cells, Kington said “There is not similar broad support for using other sources at this time.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) responded to the announcement in a Friday statement, saying human embryo-destroying stem cell research is “not only unethical, unworkable, and unreliable, it is now demonstrably unnecessary.”
He pointed to “a mountain of evidence” on the promise of adult stem cell research, naming a recent Journal of the American Medical Association report on progress in a therapy allowing diabetes patients to move off insulin for a period of time.
“Instead of directing NIH to fund noncontroversial treatments that are truly the common ground in this national debate, President Obama has directed NIH to fund embryo destructive research that is increasingly being treated as old science in light of alternative stem cell breakthroughs,” Rep. Smith charged.
“Obama's misguided emphasis on embryo destructive research will likely detract from the noncontroversial treatments that are already changing lives,” he said.
“Assertions that leftover embryos are better off dead so that their stem cells can be derived are dehumanizing and cheapen human life. There is no such thing as leftover human life. Ask the snowflake children— cryogenically frozen embryos who were adopted—their lives are precious and priceless,” said Smith.
The New Jersey representative also alleged that the proposed guidelines condone conflicts of interest and offer few checks and balances.
The sixth guideline identifies a potential conflict of interest if an in vitro fertilization (IVF) physician is also an embryonic stem cell researcher. In that case, the physician has an incentive to encourage patients to have excess embryos created to benefit his or her own research.
In its draft form, Smith said, the guideline only requires separation between the IVF physician and the researcher if it is “practicable.”
Rep. Smith also warned that even though the NIH guidelines do not allow research on stem cells derived from cloned embryos, “it is clear that they believe they could issue guidelines for such research.”
“This announcement is just one more step in the agenda to desensitize the public to the intentional destruction of human life,” his statement concluded. “The President has made clear he supports clone-and-kill technology. He’s more than half-way there.”