GENERAL CONVENTION 2003
Committee passes guidelines for
stem cell research
by Richelle Thompson*
July 31 - [ENS] David
Elliott, a deputy from Mississippi, is also a grandfather
who spoke of the hope that stem cell research could offer his
granddaughter. She suffers from a genetic disease that likely will kill
her before she reaches adulthood. The Rev. Neil Lebhar, a visitor from
the Diocese of Florida, testified that despite his grandchild's genetic
disease, he believes "using life-even potential life-for the sake of
others without their consent is a very dangerous road to go down."
The Social and Urban
Affairs Committee weighed impassioned testimony on
both sides of the stem cell research debate. On Thursday morning, they
unanimously passed out of committee the amended resolution A014, which
concerns research on human stem cells and includes pieces of resolutions
C020 and C021.
The new language, which
will go first to the House of Deputies, urges
the continuation of adult stem cell research. At the same time, the
resolution supports "the choice of those who wish to donate their early
embryos remaining after in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures have
According to testimony
from Dr. Cynthia Cohen, a member of the Ethics
and the New Genetics Task Force and a faculty member at Georgetown
University's Kennedy Institute of Ethics, more than 400,000 embryos are
in storage throughout the United States. Only a handful - between 30 and
40 - are earmarked for donation to other infertile couples. The
resolution is aimed at giving guidelines and recommendations for couples
who plan to donate their unused embryos for research on genetic and
other debilitating diseases.
"Stem cells represent
a hope for those of us who deal with pain or
paralysis,'' said Sr. Cyndy Anderson, an alternate from the Diocese of
Maine and a spinal cord injury survivor.
The Rev. Richard Grant from the Diocese of Texas countered that more
energy should be put into adult stem cell research. "Many of us have
loved ones who could benefit from cures to diseases," he said. "I
believe researchers are exploiting our desires."
Amended resolution A014
also urges the U.S. Congress to fund medical
research on embryonic stem cells generated for IVF, so long as the cells
meet four provisions: the early embryos are no longer required for
procreation and would be discarded; those donating the embryos have
given their consent; the embryos were not deliberately created for
research purposes; and the embryos were not obtained by sale or
n addition, the resolution
calls for the U.S. Secretary of Health and
Human Services to establish an oversight body to monitor such research
in the private and public sector.
In other business Thursday
morning, the committee held hearings on
resolution A011, which outlines the ethical guidelines for gene transfer
and germline intervention, and A012, which explores the idea of
parenting children in the face of new genetics.
Thompson is Director of Communications for the Diocese of
Southern Ohio, and a volunteer reporter for ENS news coverage.
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