More Pro-Life Advocates Doubt New Embryonic Stem Cell Research Method

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 25, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 25
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — More pro-life advocates are saying they doubt that a new embryonic stem cell research method will result in a moral procedure for obtaining embryonic stem cells without destroying human life. Traditionally days-old unborn children are killed for their cells, but one biotech firm claims to have come up with a way around it.

As has reported, Advanced Cell Technology wrote an article in the scientific journal Nature describing a technique called Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD).

PGD, used in in-vitro fertilization to assess the health of human embryos before transplantation, involves taking a single cell from the human embryo and using the cell to create others.

But bioethics professor C. Ben Mitchell of Trinity International University says the claim is just “ethical smoke and mirrors" and says its study does not really show what it claims to show.

“There are huge unresolved ethical problems here,” says Mitchell, in a statement obtained.

He says PGD has ethical problems of its own and that the long-term effects of removing a cell or cells from an early embryo are unknown. He said it’s likely that some of the unborn children do not survive the procedure — and pointed out that ACT’s paper indicated 16 human beings were destroyed in the process of developing the technique.

"Using healthy embryos in research that could harm them is not morally justifiable,” Mitchell said. “Life threatening experiments should only be done by consent or, in the case of children, with parents’ consent and only where the experiment might benefit the child. These embryos had nothing to gain by being used like laboratory rats.”

Mitchell also came to the same conclusion as Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who objected to the ACT claim in part because the one cell taken from the human embryo can become a unique human being.

Dr. David Prentice, a former Indiana State University biology professor now affiliated with the Family Research Council, agrees.

Prentice notes that the President’s Council on Bioethics has already considered this technique and has unanimously rejected it.

Last May, when discussing the use of this technique to derive stem cells, the council wrote, “We find this proposal to be ethically unacceptable in humans . . . we should not impose risks on living embryos destined to become children for the sake of getting stem cells for research.”

Mitchell, of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, says scientists don’t need to find new methods of obtaining embryonic stem cells when adult stem cell research has been so superior.

To date, there are over 70 therapies benefiting human patients (and more than 500 clinical trials underway) using stem cells from non-controversial sources such as bone marrow and umbilical cord blood.