Scientists Want `Silly' Ban on Human Embryo Research Lifted
Gribbin, August, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Recent advances in cloning and cell research have spurred scientists to call for lifting a human embryo research ban that a local scientist says has "devastated research output, crimped medical education and diluted federal control over experimentation."
Dr. Robert Stillman, board member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and medical director of Rockville's Shady Grove Fertility Centers, notes the ban applies only to researchers at government facilities and at universities accepting federal funds.
He says this has given foreign scientists a research edge, while "preventing research by some of our top academic scientists." He contends the ban denies "legitimate scientific inquiry and leaves this country and citizens who need the benefits of this research way behind."
Dr. Stillman says the ban has caused top scientists and physicians to quit universities for private practice and corporate work. Consequently, they are unavailable for teaching and their work escapes the government review that occurs when the research is government-funded.
John Morrow, a professor at Texas Tech University's biochemistry and cell biology department, calls the ban "silly" because there now is ample evidence that cell research may produce "cures for people's terrible, terrible diseases."
Urologist Larry Lipschultz, president of the American Society for Reproductive Research, says that because of the new cell research, "the timing is right to lift the research ban. Our organization favors lifting it."
Among events provoking scientists' most recent outcry is the announcement Dec. 16 that Japanese researchers had cloned eight calves from cells taken from a single adult cow.
Additionally, testimony at a recent Senate hearing indicated scientists working for biotech firms have isolated certain human cells that can be manipulated, grown and used to cure disease.
Those advances and related ethical concerns surrounding the use and possible abuse of human cells figure in deciding whether to lift the research ban. The issue will be discussed at a local hearing of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission on Jan. 19. In June 1999, the commission will issue a recommendation regarding the ban and the proper conduct of human embryo research. …