Wisconsin bishops, governor at odds over stem-cell research


Madison and Milwaukee's Catholic bishops are challenging Gov. Jim Doyle's support for embryonic stem-cell research, reported The Capital Times of Madison.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee and Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison told Doyle they have "grave concerns" with his policy and asked him to reconsider his position.

In their letter, dated May 22, the bishops promoted adult stem-cell research over embryonic stem-cell research. "Not only does such adult stem cell research resolve ethical concerns over the destruction of human life, it also shows greater promise for treatments and cures," they wrote.

"We do not condemn science or the pursuit of biotechnology,” they wrote. “Indeed, we have every confidence that the brilliant people involved in this research can achieve scientific, medical and economic success by pursuing methods that do not destroy developing human life."

Doyle responded that the life-saving possibilities of embryonic stem-cell research lead him to "respectfully disagree." He cited Dr. Jamie Thomson at the University of Wisconsin, who has said the adult stem-cell research has more potential than embryonic stem-cell research.

He also wrote about the investments the state has already made in the field. "In the past three years, Wisconsin has vastly expanded its commitment to this research, including the upcoming construction of the Institutes for Discovery in Madison, which will become one of the world's premier facilities for biotechnology and stem cell research," he said.

Doyle previously issued an executive order declaring that it is the state's goal to capture at least 10 percent of the stem-cell technology market by the year 2015. He also directed the Department of Commerce to invest at least $5 million in recruiting and developing companies in the stem-cell industry.

The bishops said they’re concerned about justifying such research on economic grounds, reducing embryos to mere commodities.

While Doyle has said that politics should not play a role in the future of scientific research, the bishops say citizens have a right to engage in public conversation about any enterprise done in the community’s name with community money.

The issue is expected to be prominent during the November election campaign for governor. Congressman Mark Green, Doyle's Republican opponent, supports limiting stem cell research. Both Doyle and Green are Catholic.

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