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August 25, 2000


I am deeply distressed by the newly-released National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines, which lift the moratorium on embryonic stem-cell research. The new guidelines, effective today , allow federally funded scientists to conduct research on human embryo cells.

The Catholic church is not opposed to adult stem cell research or stem cell research on umbilical cords because these procedures do not endanger life. Embryonic stem cell research, however, requires the killing of embryonic human life and is therefore totally reprehensible and unacceptable. The only way to acquire the embryonic stem-cells is to destroy a human life. Must we end one human life attempting to benefit another?

Even the good that embryonic stem-cell research promises is questionable. There are alternatives that are more effective and create no moral dilemmas. It is far more desirable to explore the direct use of human cells of adult origin to produce specialized cells for transplantation into patients. Research shows that adult stem-cells could be as or more effective because these cells do not carry the risk of rejection.

Research to treat a wide range of diseases and disorders that afflict many people is, of course, a noble venture, but never at the expense of human life. It is absolutely forbidden to directly destroy one innocent human being to help another. As rational human beings, our responsibility is to find alternate ways to treat these horrific diseases that plague humankind, ways that do not make unborn children expendable nor devalue human life.

The NIH guidelines conflict with the consciences of millions of Americans who believe that human life begins at conception. Reprehensible, too, is the use of taxpayer money to fund stem cell research that will cause the destruction of human embryos. Paying for the research with taxpayer money makes citizens a party to a cause that they do not necessarily support.

The NIH decision also ignores valid concerns of many religious leaders and ethicists. The alleged good that could result from research on stem cells from human embryos does not justify the immoral techniques by which they are attained. One can never justify the killing of a human embryo a human person to produce even a certain good. The killing of a human embryo is an act so heinous that no motive, however good, and no circumstances, however noble, can justify it. This type of research is an offense to the dignity of the human person.

Science must diligently search for cures to the diseases and disorders that plague so many people, but in a way that protects life and respects the dignity of each human being. Current research, such as the study published August 15 in the Journal of Neuroscience Research, offers alternatives that are ethically and morally permissible with promising benefits for many people.


Catherine L. Rossi
Director of Communications

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