National Catholic Bioethics Center

Dear Senator Shafer:

I am writing on behalf of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in support of SB 148: Saving the Cure Act. The National Catholic Bioethics Center (Center) is a non-profit research and educational institute committed to applying the moral teachings of the Catholic Church to ethical issues arising in health care and the life sciences. The Center provides consultations to institutions and individuals seeking its opinion on the appropriate application of Catholic moral teachings to these ethical issues.

The proposed legislation provides, not only a morally sound alternative to advancing stem cell research, but a fiscally sound one, as well. All of the medical advances that are occurring in stem cell research are through research using adult stem cells, including placental, amniotic fluid and umbilical cord sources. There is not one peer reviewed published paper on even a single human clinical trial that has used human embryonic stem cells. There are over 70 such papers on the remarkable successes with using adult sources. It has been possible to treat, and even in some cases even to cure, numerous diseases, from spinal cord injury, cardiac disease, pediatric brain tumors, cerebral palsy, to the widely-known successes in blood diseases. SB 148 cites examples of successful clinical therapies using adult stem cells. Section 2 (8) understates the remarkable clinical successes using adult stem cell therapies.

Recent research indicates that amniotic fluid contains stem cells that are pluripotent, similar to the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells. This legislative proposal will facilitate access to such pluripotent stem cells, without destroying human beings in the process. Basic embryology makes it clear that from fertilization a new human being exists, as a composite unity, with his or her own internal principle directed toward continuing organismic development and growth towards adulthood. From the moment the human zygote is formed a new human being exists, separate from his/her father or mother. Thus, he/she is a bearer of human rights. Each of us has as our origin that small cluster of cells we call an embryo. Each human being has immeasurable value and intrinsic dignity, which outweighs any utilitarian consideration. This legislative proposal respects that innate dignity.

Furthermore, researchers on embryonic stem cells have indicated that these sources of embryonic stem cells would be insufficient for their purposes. Lanza and Rosenthal (Scientific American, March 2004) have stated that millions of embryos are needed in order to ensure sufficient genetic diversity for treatments of patients. It is estimated that there are about 400,000 frozen embryos in fertility clinics, and only 2.8 % (11,800) have been designated by their parents as available for possible research. (Rand Corporation Study, 2003). Dr. Barry Behr states that if one were to thaw 10,000 of these embryos they would yield only 100 viable embryos (Stanford University: New York Times, August 26, 2001). This means there still would be the need to create and destroy vast numbers of new embryos to achieve the quantity desired by proponents of embryonic stem cell research. Such a proposal is an egregious violation of our own sacred humanity; and both President Clinton and President Bush have opposed the creation of human embryos for research purposes.

SB 148 will provide access to pluripotent and multipotent stem cells for research from readily available sources, without destroying human life. Thus, the National Catholic Bioethics Center applauds this effort to advance stem cell research through morally acceptable means.

Sincerely yours,

John M. Haas, STL, PhD
National Catholic Bioethics Center