AHA News |  

Bishops Hold Back Progress, Say Humanists

June 13, 2008

For Immediate Release - Contact Fred Edwords at (202) 238-9088 fedwords@americanhumanist.org - www.americanhumanist.org

The American Humanist Association denounced today's document issued by the United States’ Roman Catholic bishops in which the bishops "warned" against the "moral dangers" of embryonic stem cell research. The document states that "no commitment to a hoped-for 'greater good' can erase or diminish the wrong of directly taking innocent human lives here and now."   

In response, the American Humanist Association warned against the harm to the common good that would result from any delays caused by the bishops' statement. "Once again the Roman Catholic Church has made medieval doctrine a stumbling block to medical and social progress," declared Fred Edwords, the organization's director of communications. “The Church routinely decries science in the name of life. But stem cell research is already on its way to developing breakthrough treatments for devastating diseases. And if we ever hope to see real progress against diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer's syndrome, we need to set aside the outdated condemnations of a faith that is becoming less relevant with each passing day. The position of the bishops is in fact anti-life when it impedes the search for real, here-and-now cures to terminal illnesses."   

As stated in the following resolution of the American Humanist Association, passed at its meeting Wednesday, June 4 in Washington DC, "The American Humanist Association supports research utilizing stem cells from embryonic as well as other sources and federal funding for such research commensurate with its potential to advance scientific knowledge and lead to the development of novel therapies. Further, we encourage the development of ethical guidelines for such applications through the use of reason rather than religious or political doctrine."

AHA President Mel Lipman, added "Humanists value human life, and believe that every person has inherent worth and is entitled to be treated with dignity and compassion. Humanists do not see a moral equivalence between a cluster of unformed cells and living, breathing human beings. It is therefore our obligation to support research that could have a positive impact on the lives of millions around the world."

The full statement appears below.

AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION
RESOLUTION
SUPPORTING THE USE OF HUMAN STEM CELLS
IN RESEARCH AND THERAPY

Adopted by the Board of Directors
June 2008

Inspired by compassion and informed by reason, Humanists are committed to the treatment of each person as having inherent worth and dignity. In recognizing the potential of the medical and biological sciences to improve human lives through the cure of debilitating diseases, amelioration of suffering, and reduction of the consequences of aging, Humanists oppose efforts to constrain the advance of beneficial scientific research on the basis of religious or political dogma.

WHEREAS research using human embryonic stem cells holds great potential for treatment of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and other debilitating afflictions, and

WHEREAS stem cells possess the unique capacity to differentiate into any somatic tissue, thus creating an unprecedented wealth of potential investigative and therapeutic applications and

WHEREAS the derivation of additional stem cell lines will greatly facilitate important research and its translation into therapeutic benefit and

WHEREAS stem cells derived from preimplantation blastocysts are the most plentiful source of such stem cell lines and

WHEREAS embryos obtained or derived for research or therapeutic purposes with the informed consent of the donor and are not destined for personhood and have no independent moral status and

WHEREAS embryonic stem cells derived from the process commonly referred to as “Therapeutic Cloning” (the transfer of a somatic cell nucleus into an enucleated egg) as well as stem cells obtained by the manipulation of somatic cells by artificial means may have particular value in regenerative medicine by providing cells that are a perfect match for patients

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Humanist Association supports research utilizing stem cells from embryonic as well as other sources and federal funding for such research commensurate with its potential to advance scientific knowledge and lead to the development of novel therapies. Further, we encourage the development of ethical guidelines for such applications through the use of reason rather than religious or political doctrine.

# # #

The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

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