WASHINGTON (Catholic Online) – The U.S. bishops reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s support for adult stem-cell research and opposition to research that destroys human life at a June 20, 2006, Capital Hill press conference here.
At a gathering held by Sen. Sam Bownback (R-Kan) to highlight the contrast between medical successes of treatments from adult and umbilical cord stem cells – which do not involve the destruction of human embryos – and the "speculative" prospects for treatments derived from human embryonic stem-cell research, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities pointed to ethical research that can be acceptable to all.
The event featured patients and family members of patients who have been treated successfully with adult or umbilical cord blood stem cells for conditions ranging from leukemia and cerebral palsy, to birth-related brain damage, heart damage and paralysis from spinal cord injury.
“The Catholic Church favors ethically acceptable stem cell research, but opposes destroying innocent human lives on the pretext that it may help other lives in the future,” said Deirdre McQuade, director of planning and information for the USCCB Pro-Life Secretariat.
“These patients attest that there are solutions we can all live with,” she said.
“We praise these patients and families for their courage, their persistence and their willingness to come to Washington to present how ethically sound stem-cell research is paving the road to treatments,” McQuade said.
“No one should think that the stem cell debate forces us to choose between ethics and science,” she added. “We can support both. There is no need to sell our souls in the quest to heal our bodies.”
Brownback said it is important for umbilical cord blood to be stored and for adult stem cell treatment barriers to be lowered so that people do not have to travel outside of the United States to receive stem-cell treatments, reported CQ HealthBeat.
The federal health-care policy publication reported that the Brownback press conference "countered" one last month in which senators who support embryonic stem cell research, including Reps. Michael Castle (R-Del.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), participated.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said he plans to schedule debate this summer on bills involving stem-cell research, but did not stipulate as to which measures would be discussed.
Currently, the U.S. Senate is considering the following measures, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation:
- S 471, which would allow federal funding for research using stem cells derived from embryos originally created for fertility treatments and willingly donated by patients.
- S 658, sponsored by Brownback, which would prohibit human cloning for research and reproductive purposes.
- S 2754, sponsored by Sens. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Specter, which would provide funding for National Institutes of Health to research and create ways to retrieve pluripotent stem cells without destroying embryos.
- S 1520, sponsored by Feinstein, which would ban human cloning for reproductive purposes but not for therapeutic or research reasons.
In July 2005, Cardinal William H. Keeler, chairman of the USCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities, urged the U.S. Senate to support legislation fostering umbilical cord blood stem cell research and treatments.
He said that adult stem-cell research has advanced toward human clinical trials to treat such conditions as juvenile diabetes, corneal damage, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, sickle-cell anemia and cardiac damage.
“Umbilical cord blood stem cells have successfully treated thousands of patients with dozens of diseases,” the cardinal said. “They also exhibit properties once associated chiefly with embryonic stem cells: They grow rapidly in culture, producing enough cells to be clinically useful in both children and adults; they can treat patients who are not an exact genetic match, without being rejected as foreign tissue; and they seem able to produce a wide array of different cell types.”
He noted that the government has “no business forcing taxpayers to become complicit in the direct destruction of human life at any stage.”
“There any point in denying the scientific fact that human life is exactly what is at stake here,” he said.
“It would be bad enough to promote such destruction of life if it had been found necessary to save patients with devastating diseases,” Cardinal Keeler said. “In such a case, it would be important to remember that the end, however worthwhile in itself, does not justify an evil means. But in fact, the practical argument for funding ESC [embryonic stem-cell] research fails even on its own amoral terms.”
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