.- A pro-life group is criticizing pharmaceutical company Neocutis’ defense of its use of cells harvested from an aborted fetus in the development of burn treatments and anti-aging creams. While the company said it takes seriously concerns about the dignity of human life—going so far as to cite a Vatican document—the pro-life group is questioning Neocutis’ version of the facts.
Last week the organization Children of God for Life released a statement criticizing Neocutis’ use of cells harvested from an aborted fetus in the development of anti-aging creams. The group also called for a boycott.
The “Processed Skin Proteins" (PSPs) being used in Neocutis' burn and wound treatments were reportedly taken from an electively-aborted 14-week-old male fetus donated by the University Hospital of Lausanne in Switzerland.
The baby’s cells were used to create a working cell bank by laboratory cultivation. The cells now number in the hundreds of millions.
Though the University Hospital of Lausanne said the cells were originally established for wound healing and burn treatments, Children of God for Life charged that they are now being used for cosmetic products.
Neocutis defended its procedures in a recent statement which professed respect for differing views. It said the important question is how to conduct research and development in a way that is “respectful of the dignity of human life, and that is conducted in a highly controlled and responsible manner.”
“This is an understandable concern that we take very seriously,” Neocutis said. “The small skin donation that, ultimately, made the development of our treatment possible originated from a single terminated pregnancy that could not survive to term and was deemed medically necessary by the attending physicians.”
According to the company, the “voluntary donation to medical research” was made by the parents and was performed in adherence with “strict Swiss laws.”
“To be clear, our products do not directly use the originally donated tissue in any way,” the company added. The cells used were not embryonic stem cells, it reported, saying that no other donation will ever be necessary and that the cell bank enables the production of about 900 million biological bandages for patients with severe wounds, burns and other serious skin conditions.
The company said it believed “extremely limited use” of fetal skin tissue obtained in a respectful manner can lead to “significant medical benefit.”
In a Nov. 3 statement, Children of God for Life Executive Director Debi Vinnedge charged that the company was “not being honest.” The group cited evidence that the company was using fetal cells since 1995, long before the 2004 abortion used to provide fetal material.
The organization also questioned Neocutis’ claims, made in other responses to public inquiries, that the abortion was performed on a pregnancy that could not come to term in which the mother’s life was in danger. These facts were not documented in a 2009 research paper published in Experimental Gerontology, the pro-life group says.
Vinnedge criticized as “unconscionable” other comments by Neocutis President Mark Lemcko that he had “felt comfortable with his decision” after studying a 2005 document by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life.
In Vinnedge’s view that document, “Moral Reflection on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived from Aborted Human Fetuses,” allowed the use of fetus-derived treatments only in temporary situations of “grave inconvenience” or “considerable danger” to the health of children and would not apply to cosmetics.
The issue is one of “health versus pure vanity,” Vinnedge insisted.