Bioethics Council Asks More Review of Technology's effects.(NATION)

Article excerpt

Byline: Larry Witham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The president's Council on Bioethics is neither opposed to science nor calling for a new prohibition on biotechnology, the group's chairman said.

"The attitude here is not, 'How we are going to stop this,'" Dr. Leon R. Kass said of the 18-member panel. "The attitude is, 'First of all, let's understand where we are going and what this is doing to us.'"

Despite the council's broader social mission, its divided recommendation on human cloning has gained the most public attention. The council has a two-year mandate that ends in September 2003.

In July, the panel unanimously urged a ban on "cloning to produce children," but it split 10-7 in recommending a four-year moratorium on human cloning for biomedical research.

Dr. Kass, trained as a medical doctor, said that more is at stake than just a new technology that moves society from procreation to the manufacturing of human beings.

"What is it going to mean to be a human being 50 or 100 years from now?" he asked. "We want people to think about those kinds of things and not just about where a nucleus is being placed into the egg."

The council, set up a year ago when President Bush announced his policy to federally fund only existing stem-cell research on embryos, is the third of its kind since 1997. But in terms of long-term policy, this council may have a continual influence by helping to create a permanent oversight or regulatory body.

"We're just exploring this, but with a sense that something more permanent may be needed that is more than just an advisory council," Dr. Kass said.

So far, the council has heard testimony on how Canada regulates reproductive biotechnology. It expects to hear from British and German officials on the same issues this fall.

"We are just at the beginning of that," Dr. Kass said, emphasizing that the council has no rule-making or enforcement powers. "We are looking at the various systems of regulation in place to see if there are usable models to recommend" for the United States.

Because the council plans to meet about eight times a year and issue more reports, Dr. Kass has expressed his own views in a new book, "Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity."

In the book, he looked at "the promise and peril of biotechnology and new challenges for bioethics," he said, adding that not all council members shared his views . …