WASHINGTON (July 18, 2001) -- Today an official of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) testified at a Senate hearing on stem cell research that "forcing U.S. taxpayers to subsidize research that relies on deliberate destruction of human embryos for their stem cells is illegal, immoral and unnecessary."
Richard M. Doerflinger, Associate Director for Policy Development at the USCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, also said that some proponents of destructive embryo research have misstated or distorted the facts to serve their political goal.
Mr. Doerflinger testified (July 18) before the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
Commenting on a proposal by the National Institutes of Health for funding embryonic stem cell research, the Catholic official said "It is illegal because it violates an appropriations rider...passed every year since 1995 by Congress." That provision forbids funding research in which human embryos (whether initially created for research purposes or not) are harmed or destroyed outside the womb."
"This proposal is immoral because it violates a central tenet of all civilized codes on human experimentation beginning with the Nuremberg Code: It approves doing deadly harm to a member of the human species solely for the sake of potential benefit to others."
"Finally, this proposal is unnecessary because adult stem cells and other alternatives are already achieving some of the goals for which embryonic stem cells have been proposed, and new clinical uses are constantly being discovered."
"In our view, human life deserves full respect and protection at every stage and in every condition," Mr. Doerflinger said. "The intrinsic wrong of destroying innocent human life cannot be 'outweighed' by any material advantage--the end does not justify an immoral means."
"The kind of exaggerated claims now made for embryonic stem cells have been seen in this Congress before," Mr. Doerflinger continued. "A decade ago it was fetal tissue from abortions that was hailed as the magic bullet that might cure diabetes, Parkinson's disease and many other conditions in a few years if only federal funds were provided. By the time such funds were approved in 1993, however, it was already becoming clear that fetal tissue from abortions would be largely useless in treating diabetes....the chief result of the campaign for fetal tissue research by some Parkinson's disease groups is that a significant number of Parkinson's patients may now be incurably worse off than before."
"At the very least, past experience argues in favor of greater humility than some researchers and organizations are now showing in their campaign for destructive embryo research," Mr. Doerflinger stated. "To quote two bioethicists who do not oppose such research on moral grounds, 'much of the hype that surrounded the debate about the clinical value of fetal tissue implants was exactly that--hype. This ought to be kept in mind by those now engaged in the debate over stem cell research."
The Catholic official said the real issue in the debate over stem cell research is this: "Should the federal government subsidize--and force millions of morally opposed taxpayers to subsidize--research that requires the destruction of innocent human life? We hope that the President and Congress will answer that question in the negative, and will unite instead to support promising medical research that everybody can live with."
Full text of the statement.