The National Institutes of Health’s new draft guidelines on “embryonic stem cell research” instruct
researchers in the proper methods of using human embryos in an effort to
minimize the need for toxicological testing on animals.
The new guidelines are open to public comment until Jan. 31.
“The new moral and legal frontier broached by these guidelines is the
destruction of live embryos specifically for federally sponsored
research — on the pretext that no one will care anyway, because these
are ‘spare’ embryos from fertility clinics that are ‘in excess of
clinical need,’” explains Richard M. Doerflinger, who crafted
“talking points” on the
issue for the National Council of Catholic Bishops.
The U.S. Catholic Conference organization’s statement on the issue
claims the new guidelines:
- are designed to undermine protection of the human embryo;
- dismiss human embryos as mere “tissue” to be destroyed for useful
- justify the use of embryos by reducing the need to use laboratory
animals for drug testing;
“The human embryo ranks lower in status than a laboratory rat,”
according to the statement.
Since 1996, federal law has banned federal funding of “research in
which a human embryo or human embryos are destroyed, discarded, or
knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed
for fetuses in utero.” The new rules narrow the ban only to funding of
the specific act of destroying the embryo.
Public comment on the NIH draft guidelines should be addressed to:
Stem Cell Guidelines, NIH Office of Science Policy, 1 Center Drive,
Building 1, Room 218, Bethesda, MD 20892. Comments can be faxed to
301-402-0280 or emailed.
The NIH guidelines state that the agency will not fund research on
human embryos until final guidelines are published in the Federal
Register and an oversight process is in place.
For more, see Joseph Farah’s column,
The return of Dr.