Comments: "Catholic on bioethics panel says he favors cloning for stem cells"

Irving News Comments
Copyright March 25, 2005
Reproduced with Permission

The "scientific" claims made in the article below are so absurd, profuse, and so blatantly fly in the face of internationally accepted scientific facts that it could only be construed as pure propaganda constructed solely to advance a research agenda that would otherwise be abhorrent to the public. You know, say it enough times over and over and over again and eventually the public -- even THEY -- will actually begin to "believe" it. Either that or this psychiatrist, operating far outside of his academic area of expertise, is totally ignorant of the massive number of scientific studies that refute his claims concerning human embryological development, human molecular genetics, and the hundreds of recent studies already published concerning the ability to by-pass heretofore genetic barriers that prevented normal embryological development of cloned human embryos. A simple search on PubMed would document that instantaneously. One quite seriously has to ask where in the world the President's Bioethics Council gets these "experts" -- and why. Don't they ever do their homework? Or would that be counter-productive to more pressing policy goals? Among the massive "scientific" deceits indicated below, note especially: (1) the reference to "14-days", the now-classic fingerprint of the monumentally erroneous McCormick/Grobstein "pre-embryo" and its substitutes; and, (2) the Irving Weissman fingerprint that cloning only produces "cells" -- not organisms. And there are several other interesting fingerprints in this article as well. (Dr. Dianne Irving, Ph.D.)

Catholic News Service
March 17, 2005
By Agostino Bono

Catholic on bioethics panel says he favors cloning for stem cells

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- At public meetings and in a major medical journal article, a prominent Catholic on the President's Council on Bioethics has supported cloning human embryos to extract stem cells.

Dr. Paul McHugh, psychiatry professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, argues that "without fooling around with it," the cloning process does not produce a viable human organism and should be regarded as tissue culture.

He would limit the existence of the cloned embryo to 14 days so as to prevent further development of the embryo that would allow for the harvesting of human organs or tissues.

Vatican and U.S. church officials oppose human cloning to extract embryonic stem cells because the process destroys the embryos, classified as human life. U.S. church officials also have asked Congress to ban human cloning for reproductive and research purposes. The Vatican supported a similar ban recently approved by the U.N. General Assembly.

McHugh is also a charter member of the U.S. bishops' National Review Board formed in 2002 by the bishops to help them apply policies to prevent child sex abuse.

In a March 15 telephone interview with Catholic News Service, McHugh said that he is "well aware" that his position counters that of the U.S. bishops.

"I have had no discussions with the bishops on this," he said. "I consider myself a Catholic in good standing."

The cloning of human embryos to get stem cells is an issue that still needs to be discussed by Americans and by Catholics, he told CNS.

The President's Council on Bioethics advises President George W. Bush on the ethical dimensions of scientific and medical issues. Human cloning and stem cells have been major topics for the council.

Stem cells can duplicate themselves or can be made to differentiate into cells with specific functions such as developing into heart muscle or cells that produce insulin. Scientists believe they hold the potential for cures for a wide variety of debilitating diseases.

In defending his position McHugh referred to cloning as somatic-cell nuclear transfer, known as SCNT, which describes the laboratory process used to create a cloned embryo.

"It is my opinion the SCNT does produce, in the primate, a nonviable organism," he said March 4 at a public bioethics council meeting.

"I think the SCNT, normally without fooling around with it, also won't become human," he said at the same meeting.

McHugh presented a detailed discussion of his view in an article published last July 15 by the New England Journal of Medicine.

A key argument he advances involves distinguishing somatic-cell nuclear transfer from in vitro fertilization as a means to produce embryos to obtain human stem cells.

"In vitro fertilization entails the begetting of a new human being right from its start," said McHugh in the article.

"We should use it to produce babies rather than cells or tissues to be harvested for purposes dictated by other human beings," he said.

"SCNT is a biological manufacturing process that we may use to produce cells but should not use to produce babies," he said. McHugh also said that somatic-cell nuclear transfer "performed with primate cells produces embryos with such severe epigenetic problems that they cannot survive to birth."

"SCNT represents tissue culture, whereas in vitro fertilization represents instrumental support for human reproduction," he said.

"My distinction rests on the origin of cells in SCNT, not on the process's vaunted potential for producing a living replica (clone) of the donor," he said.

Cloning involves "the genetic material and mechanisms that are latent in all somatic-cell nuclei, allowing them under certain conditions, to recapitulate embryonic development and produce stem cells," he said.

"If one used the notion of 'potential' to protect cells developed through SCNT because with further manipulation they might become a living clone, then every somatic cell would deserve some protection because it has the potential to follow the same path," he said.

Somatic cells are common throughout the body and contain the full human complement of 46 chromosomes. They can be obtained from the human body at any stage of development.

McHugh said that a better ethical solution would be to find nonembryonic sources of stem cells that would be as equally valuable to science.

"Thus, we all celebrate the discovery of stem cells in umbilical cord blood, bone marrow and other tissues," he said.

At the same time, Bush "charged our council with thinking through the possibility of 'cloning' as another source of stem cells," he said.

"If we could reap the benefits (cures for major diseases) using adult stem cells or SCNT, I'd lose no sleep over the methods," he said.

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