In a new effort to subvert stem cell research, Leon Kass, chair of the President’s Council on Bioethics, sent a letter to Stanford University officials to criticize plans for the school’s new Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine. The $120 million research institute plans to clone human cells to make stem cells, which have shown enormous promise and could hold the key to cures for such degenerative diseases as Parkinson’s, neural injuries and diabetes.
Kass specifically criticized Stanford for not using the words “cloning” or “embryo” in announcements about its stem cell work. “It’s true that the word cloning raises hackles and that the word embryo makes people think of a fetus with a face,” Kass wrote, according to the Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report. “It’s absolutely critical we call things by their right name so we don’t kid ourselves about what the moral issues are…We don’t want the moral question to disappear by euphemism and distorting speech.”
Stanford denies that researchers plan to clone embryos; rather they will “insert the nucleus isolated from an adult cell into an unfertilized egg that has had its nucleus removed,” according to Kaiser. “Although I certainly respect the views Dr. Kass expresses as an honest scientific interpretation, I disagree with his characterization of what the institute proposes to do and the process by which we will do it,” Dr. Philip Pizzo, dean of the Stanford medical school, said in a statement, as reported by the Associated Press.
Bush has banned federal funding of new embryonic stem cell programs and has severely thwarted this scientific progress in the US. Several scientists testified before a US Senate subcommittee in September that even the small amount of research that is allowed has been “inordinately difficult” to access.