Bush´s Decision on Stem Cell Research Is Assailed

Opens the Door to Dangerous Developments, Vatican Radio Says

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 26, 2001 (Zenit.org).- U.S. President George W. Bush´s decision to offer limited public funding for experimentation on cell lines developed from human embryos has caused disappointment in Rome.

The topic was addressed by John Paul II and Bush during their meeting July 23 in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo southeast of Rome.

On Aug. 9, Bush said that his «decision is to allow the use of federal funds for already existing lines of stem cells, where the decision over life or death has already been made.»

He was referring to the close to 60 lines that already exist on stem cells, obtained beforehand, from leftover embryos in clinics for in vitro fertilization. However, the president rejected the use of new embryos to obtain this type of cells.

Stem cells have the capacity, if cultivated, to replace any of the 200 various tissues of the human body. Cells of this type are also found in the organism of a human adult, and can be extracted without any danger to health.

Bush´s decision is of enormous importance, as close to 90% of the funds used in experimentation come from the National Institutes of Health.

On Aug. 10, Vatican Radio commented that Bush «has gone beyond the moral boundaries of research» and «his decision opens the door to very dangerous developments.»

Vatican Radio also transmitted the statement of Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops´ conference, who described the decision as «morally unacceptable,» and reminded his audience that by so doing, Bush betrayed his electoral promises.

During the presidential campaign, Bush said: «I will not permit the use of public funds for studies that require the destruction of live embryos.»

According to Richard Doerflinger, associate director for policy development at the U.S. bishops´ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, «These cells are the result of the killing of embryos, from which now some will take advantage. Moreover, once the moral boundary is violated, the pressure will increase to destroy other embryos.»

In fact, the 60 existing lines of embryonic cells pose a new ethical problem. Avvenire, the newspaper of Italian Catholics, reported Aug. 10 that the presidential decision will bring enormous benefits to enterprises that have produced and patented these cell lines.

«Public centers, which could not produce these cells, will now feel obliged to buy them from those that already have them, with great profits for the patent holders,» the newspaper explained.

A presidential council, headed by bioethics expert Leon Kass of the University of Chicago, will control the application of the directives and the use of some $250 million of public funding.

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