Monday, July 6, 2009

NIH Rejects 30,000 Comments on Stem Cell Guidelines

Final NIH stem-cell guidelines are out and CNS is reporting that:
Although 30,000 of the approximately 49,000 comments on the National Institutes of Health's draft guidelines on human embryonic stem-cell research opposed any federal funding of such research, those responses were "deemed not responsive to the question put forth," according to the acting director of NIH.

"We did not ask them whether to fund such funding, but how it should be funded," said Dr. Raynard S. Kington in a telephone briefing with the media July 6.

But Richard M. Doerflinger, associate director of the U.S. bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, said it was "disingenuous (for Kington) to say that comments criticizing the guidelines overall were to be ignored."

"Common Ground" keeps bustin' out everywhere.

Cardinal Rigali had criticized the guidelines when they were proposed in draft, saying in part:
In most respects these draft guidelines reflect the policy approved but never implemented by the Clinton administration in 2000. However, the Clinton policy was limited to embryos that had been frozen, to ensure that parents had time to consider the decision to donate them for research; the new guidelines are broader in allowing destruction of newly created embryos that were never frozen, increasing the prospects for a rushed and biased consent process.

Despite supporters’ constant claim that this agenda involves only embryos that “would otherwise be discarded,” the guidelines provide that the option of donating embryonic children for destructive research will be offered to parents alongside all other options, including those allowing the embryos to live. For the first time, federal tax dollars will be used to encourage destruction of living embryonic human beings for stem cell research – including human beings who otherwise would have survived and been born.

The US Bishops then joined with the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment in encouraging people to contact NIH with their concerns about the guidelines during a mandatory comment period. About 10,000 of the 30,000 comments rejected came through that effort.

Initial reaction from the USCCB pro-life office indicates that the final guidelines appear consistent with the draft but include a few changes for the worse.

Doerflinger told the Catholic Key this afternoon that one example is in the area of consent. Previously, parents of unused IVF embryos had to be told of all options for their embryos before giving consent for their use in embryo-destructive research. Now parents only need to be told about options available at the particular clinic. So if that clinic is not involved in embryo adoption or otherwise bringing unused embryos to term, the parents don't need to be told about those options.

Another area of concern is the use of foreign-derived embryos where consent is murkier.

Expect an official statement from Cardinal Rigali sometime tomorrow. We'll post it as soon as it arrives.