Standing up for the most vulnerable

Embyonic research treats tiny humans like expendable pieces of raw material with which we might experiment.

On these pages, University students protest all sorts of things. What students don’t protest is the work done at the University’s Stem Cell Institute.

According to the Institute’s Web site (www.stemcell.umn.edu), “University researchers are working to expand the boundaries of human knowledge with the goal of benefiting human health.” But for these scientists, meeting “the goal of benefiting human health” involves embryonic stem-cell research, which paradoxically requires the killing of living human embryos in order to harvest their stem cells.

Indeed, the University now has embryo donation agreements with six fertility clinics around the country. University researcher Dr. Meri Firpo testified last month that she is currently destroying these embryonic humans for their stem cells.

Proponents argue that this is the most promising avenue of stem-cell research. They rarely mention, however, that stem cells from non-embryonic sources have treated patients with 73 different medical conditions (including 26 types of cancer); embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, have yet to warrant a single clinical trial due to hugely complex problems such as tumor formation, tissue rejection and genetic instability. As non-embryonic research continues to thrive, the optimistic predictions of embryonic stem-cell research-advocates simply “have not held up to scientific experimentation,” writes Dr. Maureen Condic in a recent journal article.

Morally, embryo-destructive research turns justice on its head, sacrificing the youngest and most vulnerable members of the human family for the dubious promise of future medical breakthroughs. It violates the most basic principle of human dignity: that each and every human being is valuable, regardless of size or level of development.

The Institute’s Web site assures us that the University “work[s] diligently to ensure all research is conducted Ö in full accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.” But it’s unclear how slicing up embryos is compatible with Minnesota Statute 145.422, which prohibits “use of a living human conceptus for any type of scientific, laboratory research or other experimentation except to protect the life or health of the conceptus.”

A bill currently in the state Legislature could make that question moot. H.F. 34/S.F. 100, sponsored by Rep. Phyllis Kahn and Sen. Dick Cohen, would allow millions of taxpayer dollars to fund embryo-destructive research at the University. Alarmingly, this legislation would also allow funding for human cloning through somatic cell nuclear transplantation, the technique used to create Dolly the sheep.

Not that Kahn and company have the courage to use the “c” word. The House version of the bill actually purports to ban human cloning, all the while explicitly protecting it with just one qualification: that cloned human beings must be subsequently killed for research. According to the bill’s proponents, cloning only counts as “cloning” if the clone is allowed to reach the newborn stage.

Such deception is standard procedure for politicians advancing a clone-and-kill agenda. Make no mistake: they are advocating the creation of brand new humans for the sole purpose of deadly experimentation. Of course, even if the Kahn/Cohen bill fails, the killing will continue. The bottom line: embryonic research here at the University treats tiny human beings like expendable pieces of raw material with which we might experiment.

On Tuesday, April 24, a coalition of 55 organizations, representing millions of Minnesotans, called upon University President Bob Bruininks to end this practice. I encourage all students to contact President Bruininks by phone at 612-626-1616, via e-mail at [email protected] or by visiting his office in 202 Morrill Hall. Urge him to demand an immediate halt to the University’s illegal, unethical experimentation on live humans and to publicly oppose the Kahn/Cohen “clone-and-kill bill” (H.F. 34, S.F. 100).

Some things are worth protesting. Embryo killing at the University of Minnesota is simply unacceptable.

Paul Stark is a University stdent. Please send comments to [email protected].