Cardinal Keeler urges support for bill on umbilical cord blood stem-cell research

.- A new bill that would allow research based on the stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood immediately after births should be supported by legislators, said Cardinal William Keeler.

In a letter, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities urged Congress to support the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005. The House was expected to consider the legislation, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), yesterday.

While embryonic stem-cell research raises grave moral objections, and remains speculative in terms of medical benefits, “this bill relates to an area of stem-cell research and treatment that is indisputably acceptable on moral grounds and remarkably promising in terms of clinical benefits: the use of umbilical cord blood retrieved immediately after live births,” noted the cardinal.

The Catholic Church opposes embryonic stem-cell research because it requires the destruction of the embryo, that is, human life at its initial stages. A majority of Americans support this view. A recent poll indicated that 77 percent of Americans surveyed, in particular, opposed the cloning of human embryos for research purposes.

The cardinal cited reports in the New England Journal of Medicine on successful use of umbilical cord blood to treat two devastating neurological diseases in children: Hurler’s syndrome (May 6, 2004) and infantile Krabbe’s Disease (May 19, 2005).

“What is preventing far broader use of umbilical cord blood is not an ethical concern, or any lack of evidence of clinical benefits, but simply a lack of funding and access,” Cardinal Keeler stated. “By helping to establish a nationwide public cord blood bank, this legislation will begin saving more lives almost immediately.”

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