1. The object of this Paper is to provide an independent assessment of the Donaldson Committee's Recommendations in light of the most recent advances in stem cell research.
2. Stem cells should be defined by their ability to renew themselves and diversify into other cell types.
3. There are several readily accessible sources of stem cells. Strict criteria apply to the use of these sources in medical research.
4. Stem cells have wide potential application in medicine. "Adult" stem cells have already been used in the world's first recorded case of successful gene therapy "surgery".
5. The views expressed by the Donaldson Committee's on the limitations of "adult" stem cells are now defunct.
6. Unlike "embryonic" stem cells, "adult" stem cells have already been used extensively in the successful treatment of a range of degenerative diseases and conditions and have outstanding development potential.
7. The objections to the use of "adult" stem cells advanced by the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. have been overcome, according to the most up-to-date research.
8. "Adult" stem cells have now surpassed all other sources of stem cells in terms of widespread clinical application, safety, availability and potential.
Following the publication of stem cell research: Medical Progress with Responsibility, the long-awaited Report of the Chief Medical Officer's Expert Advisory Group on Therapeutic Cloning (August 2000), a fierce debate has ensued over the Government's decision to "accept the Report's recommendations in full.”
Focusing on the first Recommendation made by the Advisory Group (otherwise known as the Donaldson Committee) that:
"Research using human embryos (whether created by in vitro fertilization or cell nuclear replacement) to increase understanding about human disease and disorders and their cell based treatments should be permitted, subject to the controls in the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act 1990."
serious ethical objections have been raised to the proposal to deliberately create and clone human embryos for the purpose of stem cell extraction, particularly in view of what opponents claim is a clearly defined and ethical alternative in adult stem cells.
However, the Donaldson Committee's Report clearly states that the ethical objections to the cloning of human embryos for this purpose are "outweighed by the potential benefits" of using embryonic stem cells to advance research into the treatment of degenerative diseases.
Submitted to the Department of Health as long ago as January 2000, the Report's recommendations are based on the most up-to-date scientific evidence available to the Donaldson...