Scientists presented two new laboratory techniques to obtaining stem cells without killing embryos to the Presidents Council on Bioethics on Friday, reported a Dec. 4 Washington Post article. While several panel members thought the techniques show promise to solving bioethical dilemmas over the destruction of the embryos in embryonic stem cell research, one Christian physician said he still has serious ethical concerns.
The first technique was presented to the panel by two Columbia University researchers, Donald W. Landry and Howard A. Zucker, who suggested using "organismically dead embryos that have no capacity to develop into a fetus to harvest stem cells.
Dr. Gene Rudd, associate executive director of Christian Medical & Dental Association, told the Christian Post in an interview, When you say embryos can be used because they are going to be dead, you start crossing a line where abuses take place...Weve had so many doctors who were so ambitious in getting the organs that they ignored the dignity of human life of the patients. They were driven by the motive that clouded their judgment.
Additionally, you should never create an excess number of embryos with the intention of discarding them, he said.
We are so dense on obtaining embryos for stem cell research that we are willing to go to extremes as this and find some loopholes in our ethical boundaries, according to Rudd, pointing to adult stem cell research as a promising alternative if not substitute.
The successes are real, they are occurring everyday, they not constrained and show great promise, he said. The only thing embryonic stem cell research has done is show potential. There has been no success. Embryonic stem cell research only results in tumor formation and poor outcome.
William B. Hurlbut, a physician from Stanford University, who also serves on the panel, presented the second technique as altered nuclear transfer. According to Hurlbut, scientists would inactivate genes necessary for the development of embryo then remove the resulting remaining cluster of cells, or teratomas, and restore the inactivated genes in order to produce usable stem cells.
Take away for the moment that any good could come out of that, is that process creating a defective life ethical or unethical? Rudd asked. I think thats something wrong with that...Just because good can come out of it doesnt mean its ethical.
I think there is something wrong about intentionally creating a form of life that is defective. It lowers the dignity and respect for all of human life to create a defective form, he said.
Embryonic stem cell research was an issue of major moral concern among conservatives during the Election. Scientists who back the research claimed the stem cells from embryos could lead to cures and treatments for diseases.
In California, voters passed a $3 billion-initiative to fund stem cell research. Although there is no ban on embryonic stem cell research in the nation, federal funding is only available on a limited number of embryonic stem cell lines.
Rudd said that sometimes the marketing behind embryonic stem cell research can be deceptive.
Their goals are not so pure as to achieve cures, he said. They need money to fund the research. They cant get it from the private sector but from the public sector and in order to get it from the public sector, they need to win public sentiment.
Scientist pushing for embryonic stem cell research are not receiving money from the private sector, according to Rudd, because venture capitalists are putting their money in adult stem cell research because thats where the cures are.
He pointed to a recent case in which a South Korean woman who was paralyzed for 20 years walked after receiving treatment from umbilical cord stem cells. He also said adult stem cells have been used for heart muscle rehabilitation, muscle growth and to treat diabetes and Parkinsons disease.