News - Summer 2005

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NAS Releases ESCR Guidelines

On April 26th, The National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) issued voluntary Guidelines for Embryonic Stem Cell Research. These guidelines begin with the assumption that harvesting stem cells from embryos produced via “therapeutic cloning” is acceptable and attempts to lay out a framework for how that activity can be done while observing “the highest ethical, legal, and scientific standards.”

According to CBHD Senior Fellow Dr. C. Ben Mitchell, “The National Academy of Sciences has given us another morally unconscionable ‘clone and kill’ policy. While we welcome better oversight, the Academy’s report represents permission to destroy human embryos for research purposes. We’ve seen this before, and it is just an unacceptable starting point for policy.”

CBHD President Dr. John Kilner emphasizes that “the NAS report’s claim that it is observing the highest ethical standards is flatly contradicted by the United Nations, which recently passed a declaration banning human cloning. According to the U.N. declaration, the research proposed in the NAS report (embryonic stem cell research using nuclear transfer) is both unethical and dangerous.”

U.N. Ban on Human Cloning

The General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on Human Cloning, by which Member States were called on to adopt all measures necessary to prohibit all forms of human cloning inasmuch as they are incompatible with human dignity and the protection of human life.

By a vote of 84 in favour, 34 against and 37 abstaining, with 36 absent, the Assembly acted to adopt the text. It called on States “to prevent the exploitation of women in the application of life sciences” and “to protect adequately human life in the application of life sciences.”

The non-binding resolution was adopted after a four-year battle over whether to completely ban cloning, or to allow it for research. In the end, UN members were urged to “prohibit all forms of human cloning.”

Brain Damaged Firefighter Makes Recovery

Ten years after a firefighter was left brain-damaged and mostly mute during a 1995 roof collapse, he unexpectantly began to speak, making requests to see his wife.\

Donald Herbert was fighting a house fire December 29, 1995, when the roof collapsed, burying him under debris. After going without air for several minutes, Herbert was comatose for 2 1/2 months and has undergone therapy ever since.

Dr. Rose Sherr of New York University Medical Center said when patients recover from brain injuries, they usually do so within two or three years.

“It’s almost unheard of after 10 years,” she said, “but sometimes things do happen and people suddenly improve and we don’t understand why.”

Feds Tested AIDS Drugs on Foster Kids

To gain access to hundreds of HIV-infected foster children, federally funded researchers promised to provide an independent advocate to safeguard the kids’ well-being as they tested potent AIDS drugs. Most of the time, that special protection never materialized.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the research included 7 states—Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Colorado and Texas—and involved more than 48 different studies. It was most widespread in the 1990s as foster care agencies sought treatments for their HIV-infected children that weren’t yet available.

The practice ensured that foster children received care at government expense, with the hope of increasing their life expectancy. But it also exposed a vulnerable population to the risks of medical research and drugs that were known to have serious side effects in adults and for which the safety for children was unknown.