Can new techniques resolve stem cell impasse?

The political battles over stem cell research continue to shift as new techniques are proposed as ways to circumvent ethical and religious questions.

Background

Why it matters

Until now, embryonic stem cell research has forced people to choose between two potentially life-protecting principles – eradicating devastating diseases in children and adults and protecting human life at the embryonic stage. People cite religious beliefs and moral concerns as factors that shape their opinions on the issue. If the new technique could gain acceptance as a method of resolving this conflict, it could alter the discussion and even open the way to federal funding of research on new embryonic stem cell lines, which is now banned by Bush’s policy.

Developments

  • On May 16, 2013 scientists discovered a way to create embryonic stem cells from human skin cells by sending the cells back to the state that they existed in as an embryo. Read more about it here.
  • On April 4, 2012 a team of scientists at the National Toxicology Program and Laboratory found out how to turn normal stem cells into cancer stem cells and develop tumor growth.
  • On Feb. 13, 2012 scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University showed that a patient’s own stem cells can be used to regenerate heart tissue to help undo any damages caused by strokes– a process known as therapeutic regeneration. (Read a Medical News Today article about how this technique has proven successful for some patients)
  • Judge Royce Lamberth dismissed a lawsuit on July 27, 2011 that tried to block funding of stem cell research on human embryos.
  • On April 29, 2011 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia lifted the restriction on the Obama administration restricting them from funding embryonic stem cell research. (Read about it here)

Questions for reporters

  • What are your region’s leaders on either side of the stem cell debate saying about the new technique? Has news of the new technique changed either expert or public opinion in your region?
  • Are embryonic stem cell and human cloning bills being debated in your state legislature? What groups are for and against such bills, and what arguments are they using to support their stances? What groups are allied with each other?
  • If there a strong biomedical industry or research community in your state, how is it reacting to new legislation and laws?
  • What do residents – and particularly those close to people who could someday benefit from embryonic stem cell research – say about legislative efforts?
  • Polls show a growing number of Americans support embryonic stem cell research. What is changing people’s minds?

Government information

The National Institutes of Health Stem Cell Information home page includes links to:

Religious stances

Articles

Polls and surveys

  • “Declining Majority of Americans Favor Embryonic Stem Cell Research”

    An Aug. 3, 2005, poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that by a nearly 2-1 ratio (57 percent to 30 percent) Americans said it was more important to conduct stem cell research to find new cures than to not destroy the potential life of embryos involved in the research. It noted that support for stem cell research was growing among major religious groups, with the exception of white evangelical Protestants.

  • “Stem Cell Research”

    Pollingreport.com lists recent polls from different organizations about stem cell research.

  • “Gallup Poll: Stem Cell Research”

    A 2013 Gallup poll has observed how U.S. citizens view stem cell research and how their views have changed over a 10 year period.

  • The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life: Science and Innovation

    Read a selection of articles about religion and issues in science, including the extension of life, stem cells, cloning, evolution and global warming on the Pew Forum website.

Other background

National sources

Christian

  • Richard Doerflinger

    Richard Doerflinger, deputy director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a bioethicist who writes frequently on euthanasia. He has written extensively on Roman Catholic teachings on bioethics and testified before Congress. Many of his articles are posted on the Pro-Life Activities bioethics web page.

  • Richard Land

    Richard Land is president of the nondenominational Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, N.C., and previously served for 25 years as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

  • Marie T. Hilliard

    Marie T. Hilliard is director of bioethics and public policy and an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia.

  • Dr. Daniel Sulmasy

    Dr. Daniel Sulmasy is a professor of medicine and ethics at the University of Chicago. Sulmasy is a Franciscan friar and a physician. He also holds a doctorate in philosophy and has expertise in end-of-life decision-making. His writings include “Are Feeding Tubes Morally Obligatory?” in the January 2006 St. Anthony Messenger, examining Catholic teachings about extraordinary medical treatments.

  • Mark F. Carr

    Mark F. Carr is theological co-director for the Center for Christian Bioethics at Loma Linda University in California.

    Contact: 909-558-4956.
  • Carrie Gordon Earll

    Carrie Gordon Earll is bioethics analyst for Focus on the Family, which opposes all forms of cloning and embryonic stem cell research on the grounds that any embryo is a human life.

  • Russell Moore

    Russell Moore is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

  • Resources for American Christianity

    Resources for American Christianity is a website funded by the Lilly Endowment that “seeks to assist leaders and participants in Christian communities, scholars and other interested publics in better understanding the impact, trends and trajectories of Christianity in American society.” Under the “Economics” category, the site has a series of excellent studies, papers and experts. They are under sub-headings that include: Church Finances, Giving, Materialism, Stewardship, Wealth and Work.

  • Robert W. Edgar

    The Rev. Bob Edgar is general secretary of the National Council of Churches which works for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States. Contact through director of media relations Daniel Webster.

    In November 2005 the NCC approved a first reading of “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” a new policy on biotechnology. The policy is intended to guide people through moral and ethical decision-making but does not offer specific recommendations on embryonic stem cell research and other issues that the NCC’s 35 member churches do not agree on.

Jewish

  • Hadassah

    Hadassah, the Jewish Zionist women’s organization, sponsors Israel tours mixing education, politics and religion.

  • Nathan J. Diament

    Nathan J. Diament is director of the Institute for Public Affairs, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, in New York.

  • Michael Akerman

    Dr. Michael “Moshe” Akerman is was the director of the National Association of Judaism and Medicine, which looks at medical science in light of Jewish ethical tradition.

    Contact: 866-210-0654.

Muslim

  • Abdulaziz A. Sachedina

    Abdulaziz A. Sachedina is a coordinator of the Islamic bioethics group of the International Association of Bioethics and is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He contributed the entry on bioethics for The Oxford Dictionary of Islam.

  • Muzammil Siddiqi

    Muzammil H. Siddiqi, chairman of the Executive Council of the Shura Council of Southern California and director of the Islamic Center of Orange County, has written about the need for forgiveness from an Islamic perspective and led Muslim-Catholic dialogues.

    Contact: 714-531-1722, 714-239-6473.
  • “Stem-cell science stirs debate in Muslim world, too”

    Read a June 22, 2005, Christian Science Monitor story on the debate stem cell research is sparking in Muslim countries.

Social/ medical groups

  • National Institutes of Health: Stem Cell Information

    Read about stem cell research – science, news and policy – on the National Institutes of Health web site.

  • Genetics and Public Policy Center

    The Genetics & Public Policy Center of the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C., “works to help policy leaders, decision makers, and the public better understand the rapidly evolving field of human genetics and its application to healthcare.” The Center studies the ethical, social and legal implications of genetic technologies, including PGD, surveys public opinion on genetics, and does other analyses.

  • Judy Norsigian

    Judy Norsigian, co-founder of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective and co-author of the classic feminist book Our Bodies, Ourselves (Touchstone, 2005) and its updates, testified in 2004 in favor of the House ban on therapeutic cloning, saying it takes advantage of women’s bodies to harvest their eggs.

  • Douglas Johnson

    Douglas Johnson is legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, which opposes embryonic stem cell research. He says bills such as one New Jersey passed in 2003 legalizing embryonic stem cell research promote fetus farming. Contact Megan Dillon.

    Contact: 202-626-8825.
  • Andrew Fergusson

    Andrew Fergusson is president and CEO of the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, a nonprofit group founded by Christian bioethicists. The group has issued a statement on stem cell research.

  • Sean B. Tipton

    Sean B. Tipton is a president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research which represents universities and health advocates and supports research cloning.

  • Resources for American Christianity

    Resources for American Christianity is a website funded by the Lilly Endowment that “seeks to assist leaders and participants in Christian communities, scholars and other interested publics in better understanding the impact, trends and trajectories of Christianity in American society.” Under the “Economics” category, the site has a series of excellent studies, papers and experts. They are under sub-headings that include: Church Finances, Giving, Materialism, Stewardship, Wealth and Work.

Government

  • Edmund Pellegrino

    Dr. Edmund Pellegrino is a professor emeritus of medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center. He served as director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics (1983-89) and the Center for Clinical Bioethics at the medical center (1991-96). He previously chaired of the President’s Council on Bioethics. The author of more than 500 publications, he is best-known for his discussions of Christian virtue and medical ethics in the treatment of patients, humanism and the physician, and the philosophical basis of medical treatment. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Medicine and Philosophy.

  • National Institutes of Health: Stem Cell Information

    Read about stem cell research – science, news and policy – on the National Institutes of Health web site.

Regional sources

In the Northeast

  • Margaret A. Farley

    Margaret A. Farley is the Gilbert L. Stark professor emerita of Christian ethics at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn. She is Catholic and has written widely about Christian sexual ethics.

  • Lisa Sowle Cahill

    Lisa Sowle Cahill is a professor of theology at Boston College who has written about genetics from a Christian perspective. Her books include Theological Bioethics: Participation, Justice and Change and Bioethics and the Common Good.

  • Ronald Cole-Turner

    Ronald Cole-Turner is the H. Parker Sharp Professor of Theology and Ethics at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, author of Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Advancement and editor of Design and Destiny: Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Human Germline Modification.

  • J. David Bleich

    J. David Bleich is a professor of Jewish law and ethics at Yeshiva University in New York City. He is an expert on Jewish law and bioethics and how Jewish law applies to contemporary issues. He is also conversant in how Jewish law intersects with the American legal system. He is the co-author of Jewish Bioethics and author of Bioethical Dilemmas: A Jewish Perspective.

  • Arthur Caplan

    Arthur Caplan is a professor of bioethics and director of the division of medical ethics at New York University’s school of medicine. He co-edited Assisted Suicide: Finding Common Ground.

  • Aaron Mackler

    Aaron Mackler is an associate professor of theology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and a Conservative rabbi. He has written extensively on health-care ethics, theological ethics and Jewish theology and helped draft reports on physician-assisted suicide and medical decision-making as ethicist for the New York State Task Force on Life and Law.

  • George P. Smith II

    George P. Smith II is a law professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. His specialty is bioethics and health law; he has taught internationally.

  • John Langan

    The Rev. John Langan is a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He wrote the entry “Stem Cell Research and Religious Freedom” for Stem Cell Research: New Frontiers in Science and Ethics.

  • Thomas Anthony Shannon

    Thomas Anthony Shannon is professor of religion and ethics at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Mass. He wrote Made in Whose Image?: Genetic Engineering and Christian Ethics (Humanity Books, 2000) and co-wrote New Genetic Medicine: Theological and Ethical Reflections (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).

  • George Daley

    George Daley is a stem cell biologist with the Whitehead Institute and Harvard Medical School. He supports a bill that would allow embryonic stem cell research in Massachusetts.

In the South

  • B. Andrew Lustig

    B. Andrew Lustig is the Holmes Rolston III Professor of Religion and Science at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. His specialties include bioethics and religion and science. He was staff ethicist for then-Gov. Mario Cuomo’s New York State Task Force on Life and the Law.

  • James Childress

    James Childress is the John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics in the department of religious studies at the University of Virginia. His research interests include religious ethics, social and political ethics, biomedical ethics and methods in ethics.

  • Wendy Baldwin

    Wendy Baldwin is vice president for research at the University of Kentucky in Louisville. She has argued before the Kentucky state legislature in favor of embryonic stem cell research.

  • Daniel B. McGee

    Daniel B. McGee is a professor of ethics at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He wrote the article “A Consistent Center for Bioethics” for the Theological Educator: A Journal of Theology and Ministry.

  • John C. Fletcher

    John C. Fletcher is a professor emeritus for the Center for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He wrote the entries “The Stem Cell Debate in Historical Context” and “The NBAC’s (National Bioethics Advisory Commission) Arguments on Embryo Research: Strengths and Weaknesses” for The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate (MIT Press, 2001).

  • Timothy Mark Renick

    Timothy Mark Renick is associate professor of philosophy at Georgia State University in Atlanta. He wrote the article “A Cabbit in Sheep’s Clothing: Exploring the Sources of Our Moral Disquiet About Cloning” for the journal Annual of the Society of Christian Ethics.

  • Mary Jo Iozzio

    Mary Jo Iozzio is professor of theology and philosophy at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla. She edited Considering Religious Traditions in Bioethics: Christian and Jewish Voices (University of Scranton Press, 2000).

  • Scott C. Williamson

    Scott C. Williamson is assistant professor of theological ethics at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He wrote the article “The Ethics of Human Cloning and Its Implications for the Family: A Few Preliminary Matters” for the journal Family Ministry: Empowering Through Faith.

  • E. Christian Brugger

    E. Christian Brugger is J. Francis Cardinal Stafford Professor of Moral Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver. He wrote the essay “Embryos, Clones and Stem Cells” for the New Oxford Review (October 2003).

In the Midwest

  • Gerald McKenny

    Gerald McKenny is a professor of Christian ethics and moral theology at the University of Notre Dame. He studies and writes about the ethics of biotechnology and the philosophy of medicine.

  • Gerard Magill

    Gerard Magill is the Vernon F. Gallagher Chair for the Integration of Science, Theology, Philosophy, and Law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he also teaches health care ethics. He co-edited Abortion and Public Policy: An Interdisciplinary Investigation Within the Catholic Tradition (Creighton University Press, 1996).

  • Laurie Zoloth

    Laurie Zoloth is a professor of religion and ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she previously served as dean. Before coming to the University of Chicago, she was a professor of religious studies at Northwestern University and professor of bioethics and medical humanities at the university’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Zoloth is a past president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She is the author of Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter: A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice and co-editor of Notes From a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics and The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate.

  • Gilbert Meilaender

    Gilbert Meilaender is a senior research professor at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind., and a fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. He was a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2002 to 2009.

  • Jefferson McMahan

    Jefferson McMahan is a professor of philosophy at Rutgers University. He wrote the article “Cloning, Killing and Identity” for the Journal of Medical Ethics.

  • Dena S. Davis

    Dena S. Davis is a professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University in Cleveland. She wrote the article “Informed Consent for Stem Cell Research in the Public Sector” for the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association.

  • James M. Childs Jr.

    James M. Childs Jr. is a professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. He wrote the 1991 article “Genetics, ethics and the human future” for the Trinity Seminary.

  • Brent Waters

    Brent Waters is a professor of Christian social ethics for Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. He co-edited God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning. He studies Christian ethics and can discuss their relationship to Christian political thought.

  • M. Therese Lysaught

    M. Therese Lysaught is associate professor of religious studies at the University of Dayton in Ohio. She wrote the article “What Would You Do If …? Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research and the Defense of the Innocent” for Stem Cell Research: New Frontiers in Science and Ethics (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003).

In the West

  • Suzanne Holland

    Suzanne Holland is a professor in the department of religion at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. She has written about television and radio as public confessionals in the shows of Judge Judy and Dr. Laura.

  • Karen Lebacqz

    Karen Lebacqz is professor of theological ethics at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif. She co-authored the book Sex in the Parish.

  • Elliot Dorff

    Rabbi Elliot Dorff is a professor of philosophy and university rector at American Jewish University in Bel-Air, Calif. He is an expert in Jewish family issues, including adoption. He has studied the Jewish perspective on assisted death, transhumanism and ethics in general.

  • Jane Maienschein

    Jane Maienschein is a professor of history and philosophy of science at Arizona State University in Tempe. She wrote Whose View of Life?: Embryos, Cloning, and Stem Cells (Harvard University Press, 2003).

  • Irving Weissman

    Dr. Irving Weissman is head of the stem cell research program at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. He opposes an effort to repeal California’s law legalizing embryonic stem cell research.

  • Michael M. Mendiola

    Michael M. Mendiola was associate professor of Christian ethics for the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif. He wrote the article “Human Embryonic Stem Cells: Possible Approaches from a Catholic Perspective” for The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate (MIT Press, 2001). Mendiola passed away in 2008.

  • John Hyde Evans

    John Hyde Evans is a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego. He wrote Playing God?: Human Genetic Engineering and the Rationalization of Public Bioethical Debate and The History and Future of Bioethics: A Sociological View.

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