Are you a person of faith who thinks that we need to proceed with stem cell research, however limited, however subject to careful ethical debate? If so, sign the petition at the above link.
The world’s major faith traditions recognize compassion as an ethical ideal. These traditions speak to us of a duty to care for and to heal those who are ill, when it is in our power to do so. Working with embryonic as well as adult stem cells, scientists stand at the threshold of developing a deeper understanding of the origins of many illnesses, and of finding new, effective treatments.
Stem cell research is, however, an enterprise that is subject to misunderstanding. There is a need for education in our communities about what stem cell research is, and why scientists and patient advocates view this research as therapeutically promising. Contributing to America’s deliberations on this subject will be secular ethical perspectives as well as religious ones. Education and dialogue about stem cell research can help us all arrive at thoughtful, well-informed views about its value.
While support for stem cell research is consistent with the principle of full respect for human life, we acknowledge a wide range of religious and ethical positions on the legitimate scope and regulation of the research. No single voice can correctly claim to represent all of America’s religious faithful on this subject. In the ongoing discussions about using embryonic stem cells for medical purposes, we perceive multiple voices and different understandings about when human personhood begins, about the appropriate aims of biomedical technologies, and about our moral obligations to one another and to future generations. Our conversations should respect and tolerate this diversity.
oday, nearly three years after the current Administration banned federal funding for research on all new embryonic stem cell lines, it is clear that this policy needs to be reassessed. When the policy was announced on August 9, 2001, the Administration assumed that more than 60 embryonic stem cell lines were available for research. Today, estimates from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have reduced that number to 19, far fewer than are needed to advance the research in an effective way.
The scientific community in the United States — including NIH Director Elias Zerhouni — agrees that access to additional stem cell lines can help us achieve this aim. Please take into account as well the recent bi-partisan support given to this humane cause by members of both the House and the Senate.
New stem cell lines can be derived from excess frozen embryos being stored in fertility clinics. In vitro fertilization (IVF) develops embryos that are in excess of those needed for the procedure that enables infertile couples to have children. It is estimated that more than 400,000 of these IVF embryos are currently being stored in fertility clinics across the country. Most of them are slated to be destroyed — they could instead (with informed consent of the couple) serve the therapeutic aims of medical research.