Vatican signs deal to collaborate on adult stem cell research

The unusual agreement with NeoStem allows the church, which opposes embryonic stem cell use, to be seen as taking a constructive role in one of the most promising areas of medical research.

By Mitchell Landsberg,

Los Angeles Times October 20, 2011

As chairman and chief executive of her own company, Dr. Robin Smith is a significant player in the world of biopharmaceutical products and research. Self-confident, poised and well traveled, she is used to dealing with movers and shakers.

But when she negotiated an agreement with her company's latest business partner, she didn't deal directly with the top executive.

He is, after all, the pope.

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Stop embryonic cell research, Pope urges

Thu Oct 11, 2007 9:40am EDT

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict appealed to scientists on Thursday to stop using human embryos in stem cell research, saying it violated the dignity of human life.

The Vatican supports stem cell research so long as it does not harm embryos, which the Catholic Church argues are humans from the moment of conception.

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Catholics must vote, U.S. bishops agree in pre-election messages

Catholics must vote, U.S. bishops agree in pre-election messages
By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
10/27/2006
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) – As the midterm elections near, some Catholic bishops are not finding any pressing moral issues to comment on in their dioceses, while others are jumping into the fray – especially about the moral content of referendum issues facing voters in 37 states.

. . .

Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis said Missouri is facing "an unimaginably severe moral crisis" as it prepares to vote on an initiative that could make embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning a constitutional right.

"The passage of Amendment 2 would be a moral disaster for our state" and the nation, Archbishop Burke wrote in a column for his archdiocesan newspaper, the St. Louis Review. "If Amendment 2 succeeds in the state of Missouri, which has the reputation of being pro-life, then the proponents of human cloning and the destruction of embryonic human life will surely be emboldened to undertake the same deadly initiative in other states of our union."


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Ethical stem cells still horrify Vatican

Ethical stem cells still horrify Vatican
27th August 2006, 9:30 WST

The Catholic church is rejecting claims in the US of new "embryo-safe" stem-cells, pouring cold water on hopes by many scientists of ending ethical uproar over their research.

A US company says it has developed a way to create the stem cells without harming the original embryo, which the Vatican holds is a full-fledged human life.

The breakthrough technique was meant to answer critics at the papal palace, the White House and beyond, who have long argued that it was ethically reproachable to attempt to save one life by taking another.

But the head of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, told Reuters in an interview that the new method by Advanced Cell Technology Inc failed to overcome the church's many moral concerns.

Sgreccia said the procedure was wrong footed from the start - experimenting with embryos is reprehensible, as is use of "unnatural" in-vitro embryos created at fertility clinics, like the ones the US scientists employed in their research.

Advanced Cell then made things worse by extracting what could be a "totipotent" cell, Sgreccia said.

"This is not just any cell, but a cell capable of reproducing a human embryo," Sgreccia said. He added that, in effect: "a second embryo is being destroyed".

Across the Atlantic, Richard Doerflinger, a bioethics expert with the US Conference of Bishops, has accused the scientists of "killing" 16 embryos during their research.

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Patients said to offer stem-cell solution

Patients said to offer stem-cell solution
'we can all live with'

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As the U.S. Senate prepared to consider competing proposals on the funding of stem-cell research, a representative of the U.S. bishops' pro-life office said the presence of four people on Capitol Hill showed that "there are solutions we can all live with."

Deirdre McQuade, director of planning and information in the bishops' Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, participated in a June 20 press conference organized by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and featuring four patients who have been treated successfully for a variety of illnesses with adult stem cells or those from umbilical-cord blood.

The four were Jackie Rabon of Waverly, Ill., a paraplegic who received a successful treatment with adult stem cells; Ryan Schneider of Chicago, who received a cord-blood treatment for cerebral palsy; Abby Pell of the Washington area, who was treated with her own cord blood for brain damage she suffered at birth; and David Foege of Naples, Fla., who was successfully treated for heart failure with adult stem cells.

"We praise these patients and families for their courage, their persistence and their willingness to come to Washington to present how ethically sound stem-cell research is paving the road to treatments," McQuade said.

"No one should think that the stem-cell debate forces us to choose between ethics and science," she added. "We can support both. There is no need to sell our souls in the quest to heal our bodies."

At the press conference Brownback said the four told "absolutely phenomenal stories of successes" using adult stem cells or cord-blood stem cells. "We need to do more of this," he added.

The Kansas senator called for a full floor debate on bioethics issues when the Senate considers H.R. 810, the Stem-Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, which he and the Catholic Church oppose.

"I want you to see where we're seeing successes without bioethical questions involved," he said at the press conference.


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Aquinas would have shunned stem cell work

Aquinas would have shunned stem cell work

By EDWARD J. RICHARD
Published Sunday, May 28, 2006

Contrary to the implication of former Sen. Thomas Eagleton in his commentary in the Tribune last Sunday, Saint Thomas Aquinas did not teach that the human embryo is something less than human.

It has become routine now, in the stem cell debate, to throw out assertions that certain writings of Saints Augustine and Aquinas are not consistent with the authentic Catholic teaching on the grave sinfulness of abortion and destruction of pre-nascent life.These saints taught the serious sinfulness of deliberate destruction of innocent life at any stage, and they believed that the child in the womb - they were not aware of zygotes and embryos, as such - was human from the start. (See Anne B. Gardiner’s article in the New Oxford Review, 2004.) In an on the subject published in the Jan. 17, 2003, National Catholic Reporter, bioethics expert and Professor Father Brian Johnstone said, "There was never any question (in Augustine and Aquinas) of whether terminating a pregnancy was sinful, but rather what kind of sin it was in the early stages - homicide or something else."


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Doyle tells bishops he won't rethink stem cell support

Doyle tells bishops he won't rethink stem cell support

(Published Thursday, May 25, 2006 08:14:11 AM CDT)

By Ryan J. Foley
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - Gov. Jim Doyle broke with Wisconsin's two most prominent Catholic bishops on Wednesday, bluntly telling them he would not rethink his strong support of embryonic stem cell research.

"While I appreciate your thoughts on this important issue, I also feel a responsibility to promote vital research which holds the potential to save countless lives and bring thousands of jobs to our state," Doyle, a Catholic, wrote in a letter to Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Madison Bishop Robert Morlino.

The Democratic governor wrote in response to the bishops' letter on Monday in which they criticized an executive order he signed last month setting aside $5 million to recruit companies doing stem cell research to Wisconsin.

Doyle has consistently championed research using embryonic stem cells, which was pioneered at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has made the issue a central part of his re-election campaign. His challenger, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay, supports sharp limits on the research.

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Biopolitics: Can't We All Just Get Along?

Biopolitics: Can't We All Just Get Along?

by Nigel M. de S. Cameron | posted 04/27/2006 10:00 a.m.

For years, some of us have been saying that the issues raised by advances in biotechnology will dominate the 21st century—not just because new technology is always fascinating, but also because they will become the key issues in our culture and our politics. Think of the culture war over abortion, and then think much, much bigger. We will move from taking human life to making and finally faking human life—by design.

The cloning/stem-cell debates have been a forerunner of that enlarged culture war. Yet it's important to make some things clear. Those of us who would be seen as "social conservatives" are not Luddites. We are not opposed to technology. We may be more skeptical than some as to its benefits or its harmlessness, because we tend to take a Judeo-Christian view of human nature. It is flawed; humans can do wonderful things, but they can also do incredibly evil things, and new technology always gives us the power to do more than we could have before. Furthermore, because we are flawed and finite, our technologies are flawed. Space shuttles explode. Microsoft Windows crashes. My PDA rearranged my schedule one day. We all have our own stories.

At a conference in Washington recently, the Center for American Progress made a push for "progressive" bioethics and against "bioconservatives." This is curious, because one of the most striking facts of our time is that just as economic and social "conservatives" have disagreed on key biopolicy issues, so also "progressives" are thoroughly divided. Many of them side with "conservatives" on a wide range of bioethics issues, from cloning to germline (inheritable) changes to the need for reform in the patenting of human genes.

Part of the problem lies with BIO, the trade group of the biotechnology industry. Many of their efforts are estimable: Biotech will lead to cures for many diseases, and we will welcome them. But the organization, which brought together nearly 20,000 people at a conference in Chicago this April, has for obscure reasons decided to take sides in the great debate about embryonic stem-cell research and cloning.

There are many reasons why their decision is strange. For one thing, whatever hype we may read in the press, the private investment in embryonic stem-cell research is tiny, and stem cells do not feature on standard lists of "10 most promising bio developments." Moreover, Pharma—the far larger group that represents drug manufacturers—has deliberately stayed out of the debate and takes no official line on the issue.

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Nations United on Bioethics

Nations United on Bioethics
But is anybody in the West reading the new declaration?
by Nigel M. de S. Cameron | posted 10/19/2005 09:00 a.m.

Though ignored in the U.S. press, this past week saw the culmination of more than a decade of negotiations on a document that could prove one of the keys to the human future. And it reminds us of the equally neglected U.N. cloning declaration passed earlier in the year.

UNESCO, the United Nations arm that focuses on educational, social, and cultural issues, is based in Paris. While the General Assembly and the Security Council (which meet in New York City) tend to get the headlines, the vastly wide brief of UNESCO is ignored. For years, the U.S. was not even a member (we pulled out as there was so much incompetence and corruption in the UNESCO bureaucracy). But shortly before the Iraq war, President Bush announced in person that the U.S. would rejoin. UNESCO is a healthier place than it was 20 years ago, and it has just concluded one of its most strategic projects.

This past week, UNESCO's General Conference unanimously approved the Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. While the details of the document are mostly unexciting—any consensus document that signed by all the nations of the world is not going to hit controversial issues on the head—the very fact of its endorsement shows that every nation now has the biopolicy agenda on its radar screen. And while for the U.S. statements of this kind may not be very influential (we are locked into our domestic debates and have been talking about the issues for decades), for many smaller countries and most of the developing world they have huge significance. Many nations will use the declaration as the basis of national policies.


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Link to UNESCO Press Release.


Vatican: Refusing vaccines must be weighed against health threats

Vatican: Refusing vaccines must be weighed against health threats

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By Carol Glatz

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The Vatican urged parents to use caution when deciding not to inoculate their children against infectious diseases when so-called "ethical vaccines" are not yet available.

In a paper, the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life reaffirmed a person's right to abstain from receiving vaccines that were prepared from cells derived from aborted fetuses, but it said such a choice must be made after carefully considering whether refusing the vaccination would pose serious health risks to the child and the larger public.

"We are responsible for all people, not just ourselves," Msgr. Jacques Suaudeau, a medical doctor and official at the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Catholic News Service.

"If it is a question of protecting the whole population and avoiding death and malformation in others, that is more important" than abstaining from vaccines developed from abortions that might have occurred decades ago, he said.

The academy's paper, "Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared From Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses," was based on a study of the issue resulting from a request by a Largo, Fla.-based pro-life group, Children of God for Life. In June 2003 the group asked the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for a formal statement on the church's position concerning the morality of using vaccines associated with human tissue coming from abortions.

The doctrinal congregation approved of the academy's findings, which were published in Italian in the May/June edition of Medicina e Morale (Medicine and Morals), a journal put out by the bioethics institute at Rome's Sacred Heart University.

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