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LIFE DIGEST: New stem cell guidelines ‘morally unconscionable,’ bioethicist says


WASHINGTON (BP)–The National Academies’ new ethics guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research amount to “another morally unconscionable ‘clone-and-kill’ policy,” a Southern Baptist bioethicist said.

The National Academies, an advisory group of private institutions that includes the National Academy of Sciences, recommended April 26 guidelines that support embryonic stem cell research while calling for the establishment of committees to provide oversight of the controversial field. The recommendations encourage panels to review the use of stem cells from embryos created for research and embryos left over at in vitro fertilization clinics, as well as the proposed use of cloned embryos and the creation of new stem cell lines.

The extraction of stem cells, which destroys an embryo, normally happens by the fifth day of an embryo’s life. The guidelines call for embryos not to be permitted to grow beyond 14 days. They also reaffirm the National Academies’ previous recommendation opposing cloning to bring a child to birth.

The recommendations don’t constitute ethical guidelines, said C. Ben Mitchell, a consultant for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“While we welcome better oversight, the report represents yet another old-fashioned permission to destroy human embryos for research purposes,” said Mitchell, senior fellow for the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity in suburban Chicago. “We’ve seen this before, and it is just an unacceptable starting point for policy.”

The recommendations fall short of a nonbinding resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in March. That body voted 84-34, with 37 abstentions, for a ban on reproductive and research cloning.

“It’s very sad when the United Nations takes the ethical high road above the National Academy of Sciences,” Mitchell said. “Many nations understand the threat of cannibalizing human embryos and commodifying their parts. We would do well to learn from the moral wisdom of some of our global neighbors.”

The guidelines also say donors should give their consent before stem cells are derived from their embryos. The recommendations oppose payment to donors, including women who donate their eggs. Payment to egg donors is now commonly practiced, with advertisements seeking to recruit women with certain traits for egg donation often found in newspapers.

Stem cells are the body’s master cells that can develop into other cells and tissues, building hope for the treatment of numerous afflictions. In addition to being extracted from embryos, the cells may be found in such non-embryonic sources as bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, fat and placentas.

Not only do pro-life organizations oppose embryonic stem cell research because of its destructive quality, but experiments using such stem cells have experienced multiple failures, including the worsening of Parkinson’s symptoms in one human test group and a tendency to produce tumors in laboratory animals.

Research on stem cells from non-embryonic sources, however, has resulted in treatments for more than 40 ailments, including spinal cord injuries, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

VOTES NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE — A veto-proof majority for tougher regulations on Kansas abortion clinics dissolved when legislators had the opportunity to overrule the governor.

An attempt to override Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ veto of a bill to toughen health and safety standards for abortion clinics failed by two votes April 28. The House of Representatives voted 82-42 to override her veto. The override effort needed 84 votes, a two-thirds majority, to succeed. The House had approved the bill prior to the veto with 88 votes.

According to the Associated Press, the legislation would have required: (1) Abortion clinics to be licensed each year by the state’s Department of Health and Environment; (2) clinics to have surgeons as their medical directors and report deaths to the state within a day, and (3) the health and environment department to establish standards for medical tests, equipment, ventilation and lighting.

Sebelius, a Democrat, rejected similar legislation in 2003, but her April 15 veto came only three months after a 19-year-old, disabled woman from Texas was rushed from the Wichita clinic of well-known abortionist George Tiller to Wesley Medical Center. The unidentified woman died, it was confirmed later.

Tiller, owner of the Women’s Health Care Services clinic since 1975, has become known as the leading provider of late-term abortions in the United States. He contributed more than $20,000 in political donations to Sebelius from 1994 to 2002, according to CNS News.

“We know that it is only a matter of time before more women are injured or even killed by sloppy, unaccountable Kansas abortionists,” Operation Rescue spokeswoman Cheryl Sullenger said in a written release. “These politicians are going to have a lot of explaining to do to the victims’ families.”

Operation Rescue maintains a presence outside Tiller’s clinic.

ONE’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH — Stacy Dow, 20, of Scotland is suing a hospital for failing to abort both of her twins in 2001.

When she was 16, Dow had an abortion at Perth Royal Infirmary that was supposed to eliminate both of her twins, according to the Guardian newspaper. She was told the abortions were complete, only to find out 27 weeks later she was still carrying a child. After the abortion, she had received a birth-control injection and had assumed the weight gain she experienced could be attributed to it, the Guardian reported.

Her surviving daughter, Jayde, will be 4 years old in August.

“I have got a child now that I wasn’t planning to have, and I believe the hospital should take some responsibility for that,” Dow said, according to the Guardian.

Dow said she was reluctant to sue the hospital because of the possible impact on Jayde.

“I still don’t know if, or what, I am going to tell Jayde when the time comes,” she said, the Guardian reported. “Maybe when she is 9 or 10 I will sit her down and explain it to her. I just hope that she understands what happened and why I did it. Of course, it will be much harder to explain to her that she had a twin.”

In a similar case in 2001, a British mother won a suit after one of her twins survived an abortion.
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