AAAS Welcomes Washington State Legislation on Stem Cells
[The following letter was sent Monday 28 March 2005, as a bill on stem cell research came before a committee of the Washington state Senate. A similar letter was sent to Washington Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles.]
March 25, 2005
Representative Shay Schual-Berke
House of Representatives
P.O. Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504
Dear Representative Schual-Berke:
I write on behalf of the American Association for the Advancement of science (AAAS), which is the world's largest multi-disciplinary science society, on the matter of Washington's consideration of legislation to govern stem cell research. Since 1999, when AAAS issued a set of policy recommendations on stem cell research (see http://www.aaas.org/spp/sfrl/projects/stem/report.pdf), we have been engaged in dialogue on these issues with parties representing a wide spectrum of views.
We are pleased to learn of your efforts to establish a policy in the State of Washington that would ban human reproductive cloning while allowing for research on stem cells produced from human blastocysts. Such research holds great promise, but benefits will only be realized through carefully designed research subject to appropriate ethical and legal public oversight. In April 2003, AAAS, with the assistance of an outside group representing diverse views, published a report outlining how it is possible to move forward in an ethical manner with embryonic stem cell research involving cloning while also enforcing a ban on cloning for reproductive purposes. That report is posted on the web at http://www.aaas.org/spp/cstc/pne/pubs/cloningreport.pdf.
In order to advance public dialogue on the controversial issues associated with human embryonic stem cell research, it is essential that any proposal be clear about the distinction between human reproductive cloning and cloning techniques used for research purposes. Too often, the debates have been polarized because of confusion and misguided rhetoric over the difference between the two. Permit me to stress two very important matters, which as a physician, you will appreciate. First, no legitimate scientist involved in stem cell research has any interest in transferring or implanting a cloned embryo into a uterus. And second, the scientific community has been very adamant about condemning any such effort. Indeed, AAAS is on the public record as supporting a legal ban on human reproductive cloning. (See attached Statement.) Opponents of embryonic stem cell research frequently seek to distract attention from the legitimate concern about how to design a system of oversight for conducting embryonic stem cell research that engenders public confidence and support by espousing rhetoric on the horrors of cloning human beings, which could not be further from the agenda of scientists, or policy makers. We need to see through that rhetoric, so that people whose daily lives are challenged by serious diseases and injuries can be given hope.
Alan I. Leshner