.- The U.S. bishops’ conference has submitted comment concerning the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines on embryonic stem cell research, saying the rules ignore science, ethics and the humanity of the embryo.
Msgr. David Malloy, General Secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), authored the comments. He said the proposed guidelines miss an “enormous opportunity” to combine science and “responsible ethics.”
He declared it a “central fact of science” that the embryo is a human being “at a very early stage of his or her development.” Federal advisory groups had acknowledged this fact, Msgr. Malloy said, citing the National Bioethics Advisory Commission appointed by President Clinton.
The monsignor insisted it was a human right not to be subjected to harmful experimentation and said laws which do not protect that right are of questionable moral legitimacy.
Noting alternative methods of stem cell research such as induced pluripotent stem cells, he decried President Obama’s executive order which lifted funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.
According to Msgr. Malloy, the order also lifted requirements that NIH “thoroughly explore new avenues for obtaining pluripotent stem cells without destroying human embryos.”
“Both science and ethics have been ignored in this decision,” he charged.
“Avenues of stem cell research which pose no moral problem are now showing great promise. In fact, human patients suffering from all the conditions cited by President Obama when he signed his executive order – cancer, juvenile diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, heart disease – have been shown in peer-reviewed studies to benefit from clinical trials using human stem cells,” he continued.
“And in every case, the benefit has come not from embryonic stem cells, but from the adult and cord blood stem cells that this organization and others have said should receive priority attention.”
Msgr. Malloy said the guidelines do not seek to fund research in which embryos are created for the purpose of research, but he said they were “broader or more permissive” than any previous research policy in key respects.
“As the President noted,” he said, “we must not make ‘a false choice between sound science and moral values.’ In fact, these sources of guidance both point in the same direction, away from destructive embryonic stem cell research. His executive order and these Guidelines nonetheless insist on a course of action that is both morally objectionable and, increasingly, scientifically obsolete.”
“This is not merely a political or ideological problem, or a problem of religious dogma, but a deeply human problem: We are testing the limits of our obligation to treat all fellow human beings, of every age and condition, with basic respect,” Msgr. Malloy said.