Hon Tony Ryall,
Minister of Health,
Dear Mr Ryall
Re: Embryonic Stem Cell Research – ACART
It is understood that you have not made a decision on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology, [ACART] that Ministerial authority be given for the use of human embryos for scientific research.
Right to Life New Zealand in the defence of life is totally opposed to the recommendation as being immoral and a violation of human rights. It is also an appalling exploitation of women who would be asked to give up their children for research and destruction.
It is a scientific fact that human life begins at conception. At the moment of conception the human embryo is endowed by its Creator with human rights, the foundation of these rights is the right to life. These rights are inalienable and cannot be taken away. From conception the human embryo should be accorded the respect that is due to the human person. Human embryos are members of the human family and should be respected and protected. Each one of us began our wondrous life’s journey as a human embryo. Embryonic stem cell research entails the destruction of the human embryo
ACART contends that the use of so called ‘spare embryo’s from IVF clinics for embryonic research is justified on the grounds that these embryo’s are not required for implantation and will be destroyed. The end does not justify the means. The destruction of human persons can never be justified to promote medical research. ACART also contends that the research would be ethical as the consent of the parents would be required. Right to Life contends that human embryos, are not a commodity owned by the parents. Parents do not have a moral right to give consent to donate their children to medical science for research. To do so would be a grave dereliction of their duty to protect their offspring.
We have had more than ten years of research on embryonic stem cell lines that have produced no medical cures. Right to life applauds ethical research with umbilical cord stem cells and adult stem cells that have produced more than seventy treatments for medical conditions, many more are anticipated. It is suggested that the government encourage ethical medical research in New Zealand using adult stem cells that have very promising results for the cure of serious medical conditions such as paraplegia.
It is understood that there is an increasing rejection of embryonic stem cell research by the international scientific community, as it is being increasingly recognized that this research is not producing the expected results. I would like to draw your attention to recent events at the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) which is not alone as it increasingly moves away from human embryonic stem cell research (hESCR) and towards adult and other non-embryonic avenues of stem cell research.
As a recent Lozier Institute study reported, over the years since it was founded to provide financial support for hESCR, CIRM has instead been awarding more and more grants to adult stem cell research. CIRM’s current strategic plan has as its goal, moving projects as quickly as possible to the clinical trial phase, and its pattern of awarding more and more grants to adult stem cell research would indicate that hESCR is falling far short of achieving this goal.
This was not how things were supposed to turn out. As was the case with CIRM, the University of Massachusetts Stem Cell Bank was conceived as push-back against President Bush’s policy of limited federal funding for hESCR. According to reports the stem cell bank will run out of money at the end of the year and, when it does, state officials and officials at the University of Massachusetts have agreed to just let it close.
according to the Boston Globe; “Originally, the bank was seen as a repository for embryonic stem cell lines that were being created but were not eligible for federal funding under Bush-era restrictions,”
When it first opened, the bank was “absolutely state of the art,” said Susan Windham-Bannister, president of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. Such a bank housing hESC lines was to be “a marquee piece of Governor Deval Patrick’s effort to bolster the life sciences industry” in Massachusetts. Towards that end, the state provided just under US$8 million to launch the project.
Yet today, “the bank receives one to two requests a week,” Terence Flotte, dean of University of Massachusetts Medical School, told the Globe. The most reasonable explanation for this unanticipated development would seem to be that scientists hoping to turn research into cures are losing interest in working with hESCs.Or, as the Globe succinctly put it, the bank has “become obsolete. Taken together with CIRM’s favoring of adult/non-embryonic stem cell research, the University of Massachusetts Stem Cell Bank’s closure provides yet more evidence that the therapeutic promise of hESCs – so hyped in the past is becoming obsolete.
Right to Life earnestly requests that in the defence of life and in the light of the above important developments that you reject the recommendation of ACART to allow research on human embryos and reject an alternative 18 months moratorium allowing for more research and consultation. Our Society is opposed to all attacks on the dignity of man and the sanctity of life ethic we therefore urge you to also prohibit, cloning, the making of hybrid human/ animal research animals and the genetic modification of human embryos for research.