A Publication of Nebraska Right to Life
  Summer 2000

Nu Bioethics Advisory Committee Going Backward Instead Of Forward - Conclusions Thus Far Are Less Than Promising

Underlined passages are emphasis added by Nebraska Right to Life

In the wake of the aborted fetal tissue controversy, University of Nebraska President Dennis Smith named a Bioethics Advisory Committee to, according to the 7/10/00 Lincoln Journal Star. "discuss and make recommendations about the use of human stem cells, whether embryonic, fetal or adult, in research and treatment ....and to look at the University's institutional review boards and make recommendations for strengthening their work."

Quoting from the Journal-Star article, written by reporter Martha Stoddard who covered the 7/18/00 Bioethics Committee meeting:

"Rapid autopsies on children and adults show promise for replacing abortions as the source of some brain cells used in research....But such procedures don't appear likely to yield neurons. a key type of cell for study, said Dr. Sam Cohen, a pathology and microbiology professor at UNMC."

'"Right now we have no evidence that it will,' he told members of the Nebraska Bioethics Advisory Committee,"

"That means Medical Center researchers must continue using immature neurons collected from aborted fetuses. Neurons from full-term infants already have lost many of the characteristics needed in the research."

"But if autopsies done within a few hours of death can provide two other types of brain cells astrocytes and microglia, researchers may be able to reduce their need for fetal tissue by at least half. Cohen said."

"Stem cells are of interest because they renew themselves, rather than dying out after a few months or weeks as other human cells do, and because they create other types of cells. Some stem cells have the potential to form virtually any type of body tissue. Others form only specific types of tissue. Some stem cells survive into adulthood, such as those that create skin and bone marrow. Others are active only in embryos, such as those that create neurons and heart muscle."

'"These stem cells have enormous healing power and healing properties,' said Dr. Harold Maurer, UNMC Chancellor."

"They also have enormous power to create controversy, because they are collected either

from embryos left over from in-vitro fertilization or from the developing genitals of aborted fetuses."

Harvey Perlman, interim Chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and chairman of the Bioethics Committee agreed to seek viewpoints from both those opposed to embryonic or aborted stem cell research and those who support it to make presentations to the committee before it makes any decisions about pursuing this research.

"However, he said, the presentations were unlikely to sway any committee members, and the group likely would proceed on the basis that stem cell research could be ethically considered in some circumstances."

(End of quotations from Lincoln Journal-Star article.)

Chancellor Perlman has already issued the foregone conclusion that stem cell research, some of which could be derived from human embyros or aborted babies, will likely be pursued by UNMC. Back when the aborted baby research issue was first brought up to the Board of Regents, self-appointed point man, Regent Drew Miller made the claim that UNMC should be able to achieve loo percent procurement of tissue from moral means within a few months. We have not seen that come to fruition. In fact, UNMC spokesman Dr. Sam Cohen admits that the idea of finding alternative sources of tissue through rapid autopsies has so far produced no neuron cells, the main type of cell they need. They further conclude that if the rapid autopsies can yield two other types of cells...astrocytes and microglia...they might be able to cut in half the need for using aborted baby tissue.

So while UNMC's public relations machine has given the impression that they are addressing the concerns of pro-life Nebraskans, we still have no evidence to conclude that they ever intend to fully stop using aborted babies for research and now alarmingly, we have the Bioethics Committee chairman staling that they will be pursuing stem cell research as well, because he doesn't think presentations by those opposing this research would sway any committee members to oppose it.

Why is Chancellor Periman speaking for the whole committee when at least two pro-lifers that we know of were appointed to the committee? Would they not oppose stem cell

research using cells derived from embryos or aborted babies? Or is the whole UNMC Bioethics Advisory Committee simply there to rubber stamp what the UNMC wants? Was the appointment of two token pro-lifers to the committee a mechanism to provide cover for the UNMC in light of complaints from the pro- life community that our voices were not heard at the Board of Regents' meetings?

One thing is for certain, UNMC has the resources at hand to further confuse the public and apply window-dressing to the whole issue of using aborted babies for research and now, the new frontier of gathering stem cells from embryos and aborted babies. Pro-life Nebraskans must rise up and speak out against this injustice in every community in Nebraska.