Notre Dame seminar explores alternatives to embryonic research
By Marianne Medlin
Law Professor O. Carter Snead
Law Professor O. Carter Snead

.- Top medical experts at a University of Notre Dame conference this week are insisting on better alternatives to embryonic stem cells, and pushing for more research in the adult stem cell field.

“We think that it is crucial that ethical alternatives to embryonic stem cell research be pursued,” Notre Dame law professor O. Carter Snead told CNA June 29.

The current seminar, “Workshop on Adult and Non-embryonic Stem Cell Research,” is being held on campus through July 2, and features authorities who hail from schools such as Columbia University as well as pontifical academy members.

“Our elite scholars, across a variety of disciplines – science, engineering, law, and arts and letters – are enthusiastically committed to pursuing” other approaches to embryonic stem cell research, Snead said. 

He noted that this week's conference will zero in on discussing adult and what he called alternative – or non-embryonic – stem cell research by exploring developmental biology as it relates to ethics, theology, philosophy and law.

Snead said that the seminar has the backing of the Office of the President as well as several other university departments. 

“As the premier American Catholic research university, Notre Dame is ideally suited for this work,” he said.

The law professor said that Notre Dame is also able to contribute to the debate by affirming the Church’s commitment “to the equal dignity of every human being.” 

Snead said that “as a matter of basic justice, we do not participate in any research that depends on the use and destruction of embryonic human beings.” 

The “good news is that there are many fruitful avenues of inquiry that do not involve such practices.” 

The university workshop comes as some U.S. lawmakers are attempting to give legislative support to President Obama’s 2009 executive order allowing federal funding for research using discarded embryos from fertility clinics.

Although a federal appeals court upheld the order earlier this year, is still faces a legal obstacles. The Department of Justice recently asked a U.S. district judge to end a pending lawsuit against the order.

The embryonic stem cell legislation is sponsored by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Rep. Charlie Dent (D-Pa.). Rep. DeGette is slated to present the bill at the Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Denver next week.

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