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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bush's stem-cell policy 'deceptive,'
Penn bioethicist tells '60 Minutes'

In his State of the Union speech last month, President Bush reaffirmed his opposition to embryonic stem cells being used in research, saying, "Human life is a gift from our creator and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale."

In actuality, though, thousands of such embryos are discarded every year, Penn bioethicist Arthur Caplan explained on 60 Minutes Sunday. That claim was confirmed by the head of a Morristown, N.J., fertility clinic who said embryos are often thawed then thrown out as medical waste after a couple no longer needs them.

"To me, it means that the president's policy is hypocritical and deceptive," Caplan told reporter Leslie Stahl. "And I say that deliberately because it is not a secret that embryos are destroyed at infertility clinics. ... Every day a clinic somewhere, destroys one — no one says anything."

Defending the White House's stance was Robert George, a Princeton professor on the President's bioethics council. "If we cannot encourage more parents to permit the embryos to be adopted, we're going to be stuck," he said. That meant most embryos would remain frozen in storage, but he views that fate as morally preferable to destroying them for research.

Caplan disagrees. "You got people in wheelchairs. You got people trying to understand how to cure cancer," he said. "You know, people who want to understand genetic diseases. And you have embryos frozen that no one will ever use for any purpose whatsoever. There’s a moral equation here, too. And it seems to be to lead toward research, not just perpetual freezing."

The 60 Minutes Web site has a transcript of the report, as well as video.


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