May 20, 2024

Stem cell alternatives criticised by leading scientists

Three leading scientists have criticised proposals by opponents of embryonic stem cell research to fund unconventional methods of obtaining ESCs and bypass the moral issue of killing embryos. Paul Berg, of Stanford University, George Q. Daley, of Harvard University, and Lawrence Goldstein, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, argue that there is no need to pass legislation favouring proposals initiated by Stanford bioethicist William Hurlbut, as they can be funded through conventional channels.

Their argument, published in the Washington Post, is a reply to Dr Leon Kass, the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, who argued strongly for Hurlbut’s proposal a few days before in another Post column. The scientists appear to be annoyed that alternative research avenues which they term “bizarre” and “scientifically and ethically problematic” might divert the attention of Congress from funding ESC research on “spare” IVF embryos or cloned embryos. Oddly enough, to make their point, they invoke exactly the same arguments as their opponents: that these cells might not be safe, that biopsies might harm embryos, and that experimenting on live embryos is “ethically questionable”.