Vatican Stem Cell Research Conference Focuses on Embryonic False Hopes

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 18, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Vatican Stem Cell Research Conference Focuses on Embryonic False Hopes Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 18
, 2006

The Vatican ( — The Catholic Church held a conference on stem cell research at The Vatican on Friday. At the forum, a leading bioethics watchdog for the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops told the audience that embryonic stem cell research continues to pose ethical problems that and political activists are misleading the public about its potential.

Richard Doerflinger, who is the interim director of pro-life activities for the U.S. bishops, delivered his brief talk as part of an international congress titled “Stem Cells: What Future for Therapy?” that took place September 14-16 at the Augustinianum Institute.

Doerflinger said the recent scandal involving Advanced Cell Technology, the biotech firm that claimed it had obtained stem cells from human embryos without harming them, is “the latest in a series of deceptions” by those promoting embryonic stem cells.

“Many speeches, news stories, and advertisements have declared that these cells offer a cure for Alzheimer’s disease — despite the nearly universal scientific consensus that they do not,” he said.

Derflinger added, “One expert at the National Institutes of Health explained this discrepancy between political message and scientific fact by commenting: ‘To start with, people need a fairy tale’.”

“In fact, we do not need a fairy tale. We need the truth," Doerflinger explained. But a fairy tale is what we are sometimes getting — not only from politicians and entrepreneurs but from respected scientific journals. This must change, or science itself will lose credibility.”

The forum also featured Professor James Sherley of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who agreed that the public debate about stem cell research has become convoluted because of inaccurate information.

He said one aspect of the debate that has become inaccurate is whether or not human embryos — days old unborn children — are human beings.

"Of course they are human beings; what else could they be?" he said.

The forum featured international scientists who have published advances in adult stem cell research was co-sponsored by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the Lejeune Foundation.

Participants also were greeted with an unusual private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

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The full text of Richard Doerflinger’s remarks –