British Conservative Leader Backs Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 9, 2004

London, England ( — British Conservative Leader Michael Howard endorsed embryonic stem cell research in a speech to a conservative women’s group. Howard touted the hope that the controversial research would present possible cures for a wide range of diseases, even though two decades of research has yet to cure a single patient.

Speaking at the Conservative Women’s National Committee in Westminster, Howard said society had a responsibility to enhance the quality of people’s lives as they grow older.

"I know many people are concerned about stem-cell research. They are fearful of meddling with what they see as the stuff of souls," Howard said. "I respect those concerns. But I also believe we have a duty to offer hope to the millions of people who suffer devastating illnesses like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Alzheimer’s – and as we saw in the newspapers, possibly heart problems."

However, only the use of adult stem cells has provided the kind of cures Howard desires.

So far, adult stem cell research, using stem cells from more ethical sources such as bone marrow and umbilical cord blood, has produced 140 treatments for diseases and ailments while embryonic stem cells have not yielded any cures.

"I believe that stem-cell research offers a way forward. Of course, stem-cells are still a recent discovery. More research needs to be done. But we must look at their potential in a responsible and grown up way," Howard added.

"Politicians must create the right framework so that the great potential of science can be harnessed for the benefit of mankind," Howard said in the speech.

The Tory leader disappointed pro-life groups in his remarks.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said Howard had "misjudged both the ethics and politics of science."

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC’s political secretary said "Michael Howard has misjudged both the ethics and politics of science by supporting embryonic stem cell research."

"Lethal experiments upon human beings — whether embryos, children or adults — are prohibited by the Geneva Declaration of the World Medical Association, and have never shown any significant benefits," Ozimic added.

"Embryonic stem cell research, which involves killing embryos, is morally wrong," the SPUC official concluded. "Mr. Howard should learn from John Kerry’s experience that promoting the killing of embryos won’t help him win elections."