Congressional Cmte Hearing Covers Embryonic Stem Cell Research Scandal

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 8, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Congressional Cmte Hearing Covers Embryonic Stem Cell Research Scandal Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 8, 2006

Washington, DC ( — A Congressional committee held hearings on the fallout from the international embryonic stem cell research scandal in South Korea where a team of scientists falsified research supposedly showing the controversial science making significant progress.

Lawmakers debated the ethical problems surrounding the research, including the need to destroy human embryos and obtaining donations of human eggs for research.

Rep. Mark Souder, Republican chairman of the subcommittee said he was disturbed by reports that women in South Korea were paid by scientists for their eggs — which could result in coercion or taking advantage of poor women.

Souder told the scientists and bureaucrats who attended the hearing not to treat members of Congress "like little children" by minimizing the ramifications of the scandal.

"This scientific scandal is not an isolated incident of fabrication, without real application to US research efforts," he said.

"Rather, it highlights the serious, inherent potential problems with research cloning and embryonic stem cell research, including but not limited to: exploitation, fraud, and coercion."

Meanwhile, Richard Doerflinger, the deputy director of Pro-Life Activities at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and a bioethics watchdog, told the committee that there are scientific, political and moral lessons to be learned about the South Korea scandal.

Doerflinger explained that the scientific lesson is not to trust claims that human cloning has been successful, pointing to false claims in years past.

Politically, Doerflinger said human cloning and embryonic stem cell research shouldn’t get a free pass — especially since the research has yet to make any progress in curing or helping people.

“The political agenda for cloning has long been divorced from the facts,” he said, according to a Catholic Online report.

"To win public support and government funding, advocates for human cloning and ESC (embryonic stem cell) research have long made hyped claims and exaggerated promises to legislators and the public," Doerflinger explained.

Advocates of embryonic stem cell research chided pro-life lawmakers, with Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, saying "opponents of embryonic stem cell research seem to have difficulty containing their glee" at the South Korean scandal.

He and Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California said that it would be wrong to limit the unproven research despite the problems. They said new ethics guidelines should be adopted instead.

The House of Representatives Government Reform subcommittee on criminal justice and drug policy held the hearing.

Among those called as witnesses were directors of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the Office for Human Research Protections, the Office of Research Integrity, and several professors of life sciences.