HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Sunday, December 5, 2004

Stem Cells and the President's Council on Bioethics

Reports coming from the first post-election meeting of the President's Council on Bioethics say that Chairman Leon Kass told his colleagues "he supports two new proposals that could allow scientists to create human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos" (Boston Globe):

The proposals still face a range of ethical and scientific hurdles, and neither has yet been attempted, but they received a positive reception from the council, which has generally taken a cautious approach to new biological research.

The two ideas considered by the council represent different ways to obtain embryonic stem cells without destroying an embryo. One, crafted by council member Dr. William Hurlbut, a conservative bioethicist at Stanford University, would engineer a human egg so that it creates cells equivalent to human embryonic stem cells but never develops into an actual embryo.

The other idea, presented by two Columbia University professors, proposes devising standards for declaring an embryo ''dead." If it is ethically acceptable to allow organ donation from patients who have been declared brain dead, they reason, then it should be acceptable to remove cells from an embryo that has been declared dead.

The Council's agenda for the December 2-3 meeting in Washington, D.C., is hereTranscripts will be posted here when they become available.

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