WASHINGTON (May 24, 2005) —Cardinal William Keeler has urged Congress to support H.R. 2520, the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005.
The House is expected to consider the legislation, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), today.
Cardinal Keeler noted in a letter to House members that while embryonic stem cell research raises grave moral objections, and remains speculative in terms of medical benefits, "this bill relates to an area of stem cell research and treatment that is indisputably acceptable on moral grounds and remarkably promising in terms of clinical benefits: the use of umbilical cord blood retrieved immediately after live births."
Cardinal Keeler is Chairman of the Committee for Pro-Life Activities at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"Umbilical cord blood stem cells have successfully treated thousands of patients with dozens of diseases," the Cardinal noted. By contrast, "embryonic stem cells' tendency to proliferate into many cell types, once seen as an advantage, has become an enormous safety problem, as these cells produce cancerous growths when placed in animals."
The Cardinal cited reports in the New England Journal of Medicine on successful use of umbilical cord blood to treat two devastating neurological diseases in children: Hurler's syndrome (May 6, 2004) and infantile Krabbe's Disease (May 19, 2005).
"What is preventing far broader use of umbilical cord blood is not an ethical concern, or any lack of evidence of clinical benefits, but simply a lack of funding and access," Cardinal Keeler stated. "By helping to establish a nationwide public cord blood bank, this legislation will begin saving more lives almost immediately." He also noted that scientists are now warning against "false expectations" regarding embryonic stem cells, pointing out that clinical use of those cells may be decades away.
"If you want to see life-saving cures from stem cells in our lifetime, you will vote for the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act," the Cardinal wrote.