Stem Cell Researcher Won’t Address Value of Human Life at Senate Hearing

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 30, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Stem Cell Researcher Won’t Address Value of Human Life at Senate Hearing Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 30, 2004

Washington, DC ( — A stem cell researcher refused to address the value of human life before birth at a Senate committee hearing on the controversial topic of embryonic stem cell research.

Sen. Sam Brownback, a pro-life Kansas Republican, called a meeting of the Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee. He asked Dr. George Daley, a Harvard and researcher, to say how old a human embryo must be before he would consider research on her to be unethical.

Daley repeatedly said he could not define when life begins.

"I think there would be consensus among scientists that it would be impossible to define that time," Daley said, according to a Wired report. "But I don’t think it’s at the age of the blastocyst."

However, Brownback pressed Daley to clarify his position further, asking him at what point it would have been alright for scientists to experiment on his two children.

"I can’t hug an embryo," Daley responded. "I think (scientists) are comfortable with using the earliest microscopic ball of cells."

But, Richard Doerflinger, representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the Senate panel that ethical concerns about embryonic stem cell research need to be considered.

"Because scientists, and the for-profit companies that increasingly support and make use of their research, are always tempted to treat helpless members of the human family as mere means to their ends, the rest of society — including government — must supply the urgently needed barrier against unethical exploitation of human beings," Doerflinger said.

Doerflinger explained that campaigns for increased public funding of embryonic stem cell research have grown "in inverse proportion to the dwindling hopes of medical benefit, as private funding sources increasingly realize that embryonic stem cell research may not be a wise investment."

"We should not succumb to this latest campaign, but reflect on the ethical errors that brought us this far," Doerflinger said.

Meanwhile, other ethicists and scientists at the hearing promoted the ability to use adult stem cells as an alternative.

Dr. Marc Hedrick, CEO of MacroPore Biosurgery, discussed the success his company has had in transplanting adult stem cells from fatty tissues into patients who have had heart attacks. The research has shown improved heart functions among the patients.

A representative of Concerned Women for America applauded Brownback for holding the hearing.

"It is important that Congress and the public be educated on the true facts of embryonic stem-cell research, in order to see through the deception spread by those espousing a political agenda," said Wendy Wright, CWA’s senior policy director.

Related web sites:
Senate hearing information –
Richard Doerflinger’s testimony –