Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 18, 2002
Debate stem cells
Liberal MP calls for public discussion
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
A pro-life Liberal MP and author has called for a moratorium against research on embryonic stem cells and his sixth book promotes public discussion on the controversial issue.
"It is unethical to destroy one human being for the benefit of another," said Mississauga South MP Paul Szabo. "Where the ethically unacceptable is in conflict with the scientifically possible, ethics must prevail."
Szabo recommended at a news conference on Parliament Hill Feb. 5 that a moratorium against embryonic stem cell research be put in place "until science has exhausted all ethical non-embryonic stem cell research alternatives."
The Quebec government banned such research on Jan. 11 and the U.S. Secretary of Health has proposed new regulations that define children as persons under the age of 19 including the period from conception to birth, he noted.
Szabo's book, "The Ethics and Science of Stem Cells," looks at stem cell research, the ethical issues involved and recent proposals by the Standing Committee on Health to amend draft legislation on reproductive technologies and research.
"The objective of this book is to provide a foundation of information that has arguably become the debate of the millennium," Szabo wrote in the book's introduction. "It looks at the complexities of procreation, explains the science of stem cells, highlights what research has been done to date, and presents the related moral and ethical concerns."
Scientists believe stems cells could cure a variety of diseases and may be a key to repairing spinal cord injuries. However, the extraction of embryonic stem cells, unlike stem cells taken from adult human tissue, results in the death of the embryo.
Last December, the Commons Health committee recommended research be allowed on human embryos remaining after fertility treatments. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops reacted with disappointment stating, "No amount of healing or good can justify the deliberate killing of a human being or using a human being as a means to an end."
Szabo says the hype surrounding the potential of stem cells is enormous and is leading people to believe treatments are already available. "Clinical trials on humans have not even started but rather all the scientific data is based on work on mice, rats and primates."
Szabo concluded that although embryonic stem cell research is touted as having great potential for health therapies, it is "ethically controversial, not proven in human clinical trials and it has problems with rejection by the immune system."
Adult stem cell therapies already have practical applications, Szabo said.
"They are not subject to immune rejection, they are less risky, there are no ethical problems, and they have been safely used in some treatments, such as bone marrow transplants, for many years."
Szabo's book on the ethics and science of stem cell research - which is not copyrighted - can be viewed on his web site at www.paulszabo.com.