All posts from “Embryonic Research”

June 18, 2009

NY Women to Bank on Donating Eggs for Research

The state's Stem Cell Board agreed last week to compensate women who donate their eggs for research purposes.

In a majority vote last week, the Empire State Stem Cell Board (ESSCB) decided to pay women up to $10,000 who donate their eggs for embryonic stem cell research, making New York the first state to do so.

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Composed of a funding committee and ethics committee, the ESSCB agreed June 11 to compensate women using taxpayer-backed grants "for the expense, time, burden and discomfort associated with the donation process - within specified limits - as is currently permitted when women donate oocytes for reproductive purposes in New York State," according to its statement. California and Massachusetts, leading states in embryonic stem cell research, have laws prohibiting the practice.

A day after the vote, Father Thomas Berg, a member of the ESSCB ethics committee, decried the decision in a National Review Online op-ed, noting the many health risks involved in egg donation, including most commonly ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can lead to loss of fertility and death.

Continue reading NY Women to Bank on Donating Eggs for Research...

April 20, 2009

Some Pro-Lifers Like New NIH Guidelines on Embryos

Some anti-abortion religious leaders are welcoming new draft guidelines from the National Institutes of Health on embryonic stem cell research as a balanced approach to the controversial procedure.

The guidelines, issued April 17, permit federally funded research on stem cells derived from embryos that are no longer needed for fertility treatments.

Most embryos that are not planned to be used in fertility treatments are discarded or kept in a type of frozen limbo. The draft guidelines presumably would not allow federal funds to be used to create embryos solely for research purposes.

"They have hit the right balance by limiting funding to particular slated-to-be-destroyed IVF cells, yet expanding significantly the number of diseases that can be addressed by increasing the number and range of stem cell lines from which we can learn," said Joel Hunter, pastor of an Orlando-area megachurch. "These guidelines respect life from beginning to end."

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said "the new regulations embody caution and care that respect pro-life values."

Continue reading Some Pro-Lifers Like New NIH Guidelines on Embryos...

March 26, 2009

Members of President's Bioethics Council Voice Objections

Ten members of the President’s Council on Bioethics have issued a statement raising concerns about President Obama’s decision to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

They criticize Obama's characterization of what actually took place in 2001, since President Bush never banned embryonic stem cell research. "The aim of this policy was not to shackle scientific research but to find a way to reconcile the need for research with the moral concerns people have," they say.

The council members say that pluripotent stem cell research has eclipsed embryonic research. They argue, "Because producing them does not require human ova, and because they are patient-specific stem cells that are less likely to be rejected by their recipients, they also have distinct scientific advantages.

The authors write that Obama's decision would encourage cloning human embryos that then must be destroyed. "We cannot believe that this would advance our society’s commitment to equal human dignity," they write.

(h/t Emily Belz)

March 24, 2009

Obama Responds to Charity Complaints, Defends Stem-Cell Decision

President Obama defended his plans tonight for a healthcare overhaul that include a lower tax deduction for wealthy who donate to charities.

"Those of us who are a little bit fortunate are going to have to spend a little bit more," Obama said at tonight's press conference.

Politico's Mike Allen asked him if he's "confident that charities are wrong" that this will hurt giving, and he responded: "yes."

The Washington Time's Jon Ward asked Obama whether he wrestled with the ethics of funding embryonic research.

Continue reading Obama Responds to Charity Complaints, Defends Stem-Cell Decision...

March 10, 2009

Stem-Cell Reversal VIPs

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Conservatives aren't happy about President Obama's reversal on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown writes.

And Dan Gilgoff reports on the faith-based VIPs at President Obama's stem-cell research signing yesterday.

- Maureen Shea, Episcopal Church USA, Director of Government Relations
- James Winkler, United Methodist Church, Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society
- Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs
- Rev. Welton Gaddy, Interfaith Alliance
- Nancy Ratzan, National Council of Jewish Women
- Nathan Diament, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations
- Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism

The Associated Press' Eric Gorski breaks down some of the religious debates surrounding the issue. And Chris Good writes that Rick Warren won't be making a statement on Obama's decision, but last time I checked, Warren doesn't really make many public statements.

In an analysis piece for The New York Times Nicholas Wade writes that while President Obama's reversal of the stem-cell policy will make accounting easier for researchers, research on embryonic stem cells, "though still important, has been somewhat eclipsed by new advances."

Continue reading Stem-Cell Reversal VIPs...

March 9, 2009

Opinion: Stem-Cell Ideology

Bush-era compromise removed in the name of "science."

Today President Obama is expected to lift the existing ban on federal funding for research using new lines of stem cells taken from human embryos. Here's how CBS and the AP introduced the news:

President Barack Obama is expected to sign an executive order and memo Monday in an East Room ceremony that will end a divisive policy decision by his predecessor, while sending a clear signal that science - not political ideology - will guide his administration.

So much for objectivity. Actually, President Bush announced the ban in 2001 as a compromise position so that researchers could continue using existing stem cell lines (from which the embryos had already been destroyed), while prohibiting taxpayer money from paying for research that destroys human embryos. In the eight years since the ban was announced, research on human embryos has remained fully legal if funded privately.

It has not been very productive, however. While dozens of treatments using adult stem cells (from which no embryos are destroyed) have been produced for conditions ranging from Parkinson's to autoimmune disorders, the results of research using human embryos have been scarce at best--and sometimes downright scary.

Further, with new research showing that pluripotent cells can be produced from adult stem cell lines, the supposed scientific necessity to destroy human embryos to advance research would seem to be removed. And yet President Bush's compromise is deemed anti-science as all funding restrictions are swept aside (pending the institution of some ethics guidelines), forcing taxpayers to pay for research that many find deeply morally objectionable.

Just who is being ideological, anyway?

March 6, 2009

Obama to Reverse Embryonic Stem-Cell Funding Ban

President Obama plans to overturn Bush-era policy Monday that limited federal tax dollars for embryonic stem cell research, according to The Washington Post.

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His executive order will overturn President Bush's August 2001 order that barred the National Institutes of Health from funding research on embryonic stem cells. Bush also vetoed legislation that would have expanded federal funded research.

Advocates for embryonic stem-cell research say it would allow scientists to find cures for diseases like Parkinson's. Opponents believe that creating them involves the destruction of human life and they argue that using adult stem cells is good alternative.

Rob Stein writes that Congress is also likely to consider legislation that could prevent any future presidents from creating restrictions.

Picture of Da Vinci's study of cells and a fetus courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

December 12, 2008

Vatican condemns popular infertility treatments

The Vatican's highest doctrinal body on Friday condemned advanced infertility treatments and contraception technologies and reaffirmed its strong prohibition of embryonic stem
cell research.

The long-awaited document, "Dignitas personae" ("The dignity of a person"), was released by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI.

Church officials said the document was meant as an update to a 1987 statement under Pope John Paul II. While the two documents are complementary, the newer one covers 21st-centry medical advances that were not even on the horizon 20 years ago.

Like the 1987 document, the new 36-page statement condemns in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and all other techniques that involve "replacement of the conjugal act by a technical procedure."

Vatican officials know from long experience that their pronouncements on sexual and medical ethics are bound to generate controversy and resistance, and the response from the liberal wing of the U.S. church was swift and strong.

"There is little new in the statement, but it remains difficult to reconcile the Vatican's self-avowed pro-life approach with the rejection of in-vitro fertilization and embryo freezing, not to mention the condemnation of the potential of stem-cell research,'' said Jon O'Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, which supports abortion rights and access to contraceptives.

Cardinal William Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco who now heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was not present at a press conference to announce the release of the document.

At the press conference, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, acknowledged that the document would encounter a variety of reactions, including indifference, ridicule, and accusations of "dark obscurantism that impedes progress and free
research."

In the document, church officials attempted to cast ethical and scientific debates in starkly human terms. An embryo is referred to as a "human being in his or her embryonic state,'' not a cluster of cells that is subject to "manipulation'' or "utilitarian treatment'' in a laboratory.

Moreover, the Vatican strongly states that reproductive technologies that may appear to be life-giving or life-affirming, such as IVF for infertile couples or stem cell research from discarded embryos, are actually destructive to the most nascent of human lives.

The Vatican appeared to give its blessing to treatments like Viagra and other measures that "assist the conjugal act, either in order to facilitate its performance or in order to enable it to achieve its objective once it has been normally performed.''

But included on the Vatican's prohibited list:

-- Newer forms of birth control, including the "morning after" pill (which prevents implantation of a fertilized egg) and RU-486 (which eliminates an already implanted embryo). Both "fall within the sin of abortion and are gravely immoral." Those who seek or prescribe such methods "generally intend abortion,'' the document said.

-- Genetic testing of embryos before their implantation through IVF, which the Vatican called tantamount to abortion and an "expression of a eugenic mentality."

-- Research that uses stem cells derived from embryos because the removal of those cells "invariably causes the death of the embryo."

-- Fertility treatments that involve the creation of multiple embryos that may or may not be used in seeking pregnancy. The "number of embryos sacrificed, even in the most technically advanced centers of artificial fertilization, hovers above 80 percent," the document said.

Yet on the delicate question of what should happen to those unused embryos, the document offers few clear answers. So-called "prenatal adoptions,'' in which one couple would "adopt'' another couple's excess embryos, is unacceptable because it would involve unnatural procedures, the congregation concludes. The Bush administration has supported such efforts.

"Abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved," the document states, quoting a statement by John Paul II that "there seems to be no morally licit solution" to the problem.

The Rev. Robert A. Gahl Jr., an American who teaches ethics at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, said the church is still debating the proper response to excess embryos.

His own proposal is to "release them from their frozen captivity," so that they can be cared for by their natural or adoptive parents until their natural deaths a few days after thawing.

Yet at the end of the day, Gahl said one of the document's most significant contributions is its definition of a human embryo as possessing the "dignity proper to a person."

"This is an even more forceful rejection of the arguments that (Vice President-elect Joe) Biden and (Speaker of the House Nancy) Pelosi were making this summer, that the church is undecided about the status of the fetus," Gahl said. "From now on, those sorts of opinions are off the map."

November 5, 2008

Embryonic research passes in Michigan

I'm eager to read some analysis on this later. During this election cycle, biologists found several ways to research on stem cells without destroying embryos. And still Michigan passed a state constitutional amendment greenlighting embryonic research.

Was it that voters didn't know about the developments?

Were they swayed by the argument that the research would only be on "discarded" frozen embryos from fertility treatment, and the donors (parents) gave their permission?

Or is the embryonic stem cell battle over despite the scientific developments?

In any case, Michigan passed the amendment.

September 9, 2008

Caring for the disabled and stem cell research

Sen. Joe Biden reminded voters of stem cell research on the campaign trail today.

"I hear all this talk about how the Republicans are going to work in dealing with parents who have both the joy, because there's joy to it as well, the joy and the difficulty of raising a child who has a developmental disability, who were born with a birth defect. Well guess what folks? If you care about it, why don't you support stem cell research?"

Some evangelicals have raised concern about John McCain's support of embryonic stem cell research. McCain's campaign responded to Biden's comments.

"Barack Obama's running mate sunk to a new low today launching an offensive debate over who cares more about special needs children," McCain-Palin spokesman Ben Porritt said. "Playing politics with this issue is disturbing and indicative of a desperate campaign."

Biden spokesman David Wade said Tuesday that Biden's comments were not directed at Palin who said in her acceptance speech last week that parents of disabled children would have "a friend and advocate in the White House."

"We've heard not a dime's worth of difference between the McCain-Palin ticket and the Bush Administration on medical breakthroughs that millions of parents and doctors believe could save lives and transform the quality of life for countless Americans," Wade said.

Wade's point would probably be something a James Dobson type would want to hear.

August 16, 2008

McCain on stem-cell research, abortion, marriage, and evil

Conservative evangelicals have raised John McCain's support of embryonic stem-cell research in opposition to his candidacy.

McCain addressed it briefly in his response to Rick Warren's "worldview questions." "For those of us in the pro-life community, this is a great struggle. … I’ve come down on the side of stem cell research, but I’m wildly optimistic that skin cell research … will make this debate an academic one."

Rick Warren: At what point is baby is entitled to human rights?
John McCain's answer: At the moment of conception. I have a 25 year pro-life record in congress, in the senate. This presidency will have pro-life policies. That’s my commitment to you.
Warren's answer: We won’t go longer on that one.

Warren: Define marriage.
McCain: A union between man and woman, between one man and one woman. The court overturned the definition of marriage. I believe they were wrong. I’m a federalist. I believe states should make that decision. That doesn’t mean that people can’t enter into legal agreements, that they don’t’ have the rights of all citizens.

When asked a question on evil, McCain said, "If I have to go to gates and hell and back, I will get Osama Bin Laden."

This is cross-posted from CT's liveblog.