Prez Stacks Bioethics Council Further

|

On Friday, the White House fired two panel members of the President's Council on Bioethics. The two fired panel members are University of California San Francisco researcher Elizabeth Blackburn and bioethicist William May. Why were they let go? Perhaps because they were two of the seven Council members who favored proceeding immediately with cloning research to create human embryonic stem cells. From the executive summary of the Council's cloning report:

Permitting cloning-for-biomedical-research now, while governing it through a prudent and sensible regulatory regime, is the most appropriate way to allow important research to proceed while insuring that abuses are prevented. We believe that the legitimate concerns about human cloning expressed throughout this report are sufficiently addressed by this ban-plus-regulation proposal, and that the nation should affirm and support the responsible effort to find treatments and cures that might help many who are suffering.

This position is supported by Council Members Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Daniel W. Foster, Michael S. Gazzaniga, William F. May, Janet D. Rowley, Michael J. Sandel, and James Q. Wilson.

Firing them seems a bit petty, since the other ten panel members favored Council Chairman Leon Kass' proposal to impose a four year moratorium on such research. Apparently, the White House and Kass would like a bigger margin on future votes, say 13 to 5, since Blackburn and May were replaced by three new members who apparently oppose a lot of biotechnology research.

NEXT: Douglas Faneuil's Vision for Jamaica

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Another great victory for “small government” conservatism. What exactly does this idiotic commision do and why isn’t Gregory E. Pence/Gregory Stock on it ? Never mind, i know the answer to that one.

  2. I’m calling for the abolition of the bioethics council here:

    http://www.longevitymeme.org/projects/abolish_the_bioethics_council.cfm

    Visit and follow the guide to write to your representatives. A short roundup of some views online are at the following URLs:

    http://www.fightaging.org/archives/000033.php
    http://www.fightaging.org/archives/000032.php

  3. Doesn’t matter. He can’t stop scientific progress, only slow it down for a short while. If a few thousand or million actual people suffer needlessly, he can say he’s doing it for the fetuses.

  4. Why were they let go? Perhaps because they were two of the seven Council members who favored proceeding immediately with cloning research to create human embryonic stem cells.

    No, like Fox news, Bush is fair and balanced, which is what he expects from this panel, a fair and balanced anti-cloning agenda.

  5. As if the FDA impediments weren’t bad enough. Now we have an administration openly hostile to the notion of medical progress.

    Is anyone out there qualified to adjust my humours or give a good bleeding, perhaps? I feel some Altzheimer’s coming on …

  6. these kind of stunts make me seriously consider voting for kerry. republicans are a joke nowadays. all they care about is forcing their religious beliefs on everyone. as everyone here knows, i’m sure, they no longer are for small government or less spending.

  7. Another great victory for “small government” conservatism.

    Only if it were abolished altogether.

    Actually ?small government? conservatives and libertarians alike ought to welcome getting the government out of funding medical and biotechnology research, right?

  8. these kind of stunts make me seriously consider voting for kerry. republicans are a joke nowadays. all they care about is forcing their religious beliefs on everyone.

    So how does not forcing taxpayer to pay for a particular form of medical research constitute a violation of anyone?s rights?

  9. “Apparently, the White House and Kass would like a bigger margin on future votes, say 13 to 5”

    Oh come on! Name me one time – just one – that George Bush has benefitted from having a panel stacked in his favor!

  10. Bush’s policies are actually pushing Harvard toward doing things without direct government money — specifically, launching a privately funded stem cell center! (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,112837,00.html) Is Bush’s attempt to get a stranglehold on science all bad, if it pushes science toward privatization?

  11. garym,
    Yes, only because psuedoscience will be taxpayer subsidized instead. I am a lot less upset paying for something of value than paying for crap. Bush’s actions have the valuable stuff being privately funded and the crap being subsidized. Some may see it as government waste either way, but I’d rather have the waste go to something with value.

  12. garym – yeah, but want to bet that Bush will soon be pushing for a ban against states or private entities funding stem cell research too?

  13. I may have been confused, is the purpose of the committee to determine which types of research get federal dollars or is it supposed to tell us which type of research should be legal?

    If the former, I’m with Thorley. If the latter, I’m irate.

  14. I second what Mo and Dude said.

  15. Jason,
    Even if it’s the former, it will lead to the latter. If the council says we will not fund these types of studies because they are unethical, but other forms will keep their funding, then you have a system of picking crappy science that fits ideologies.

  16. That was too imprecise. I should’ve said it will lead to a situation almost as bad as the latter. I don’t trust this council to decide what is unethical, just what is politically platable.

  17. Mo wrote:

    Yes, only because psuedoscience will be taxpayer subsidized instead.

    Really? Please provide examples of the ?pseudoscience? that is going to be subsidized by taxpayers because of the ban on human cloning.

  18. Even if it’s the former, it will lead to the latter. If the council says we will not fund these types of studies because they are unethical, but other forms will keep their funding, then you have a system of picking crappy science that fits ideologies.

    That is an unsupported and illogical claim. Just because the federal government decides not to fund one particular form of science (in this case human cloning) it does not then follow that all, most, or even any of the science which does receive funding are ?crappy? or ?pseudoscience.?

  19. Jason,

    I think the Councils brief is advisory. From their very scary website – “Among the most urgent of the Council?s intellectual tasks is the need to provide an adequate moral and ethical lens through which to view particular developments in their proper scope and depth.” It’s findings presumably aid the executive in their decision making. The fact that the council is being packed with people who all share certain beliefs should suggest something.

    And Thorley’s argument is complete BS. It’s not as if the Council is recommendng tax cuts or shutting down federal labs.

  20. On Friday, the White House fired two panel members of the President’s Council on Bioethics.

    Untrue, their terms expired in January and they were not renewed.

  21. While the administration’s policies regarding stem cell research may have the (no doubt unintended) effect of stimulating more privately-funded research (a good thing), this will only be the case for as long as the research itself is not criminalized.

    If you think that the same administration that is supporting a constitutional amendment to define marriage is above sticking its nose in private or state-funded research, I’ve got some beautiful beachfront property here in southern AZ to sell you.

  22. Thorley said:
    So how does not forcing taxpayer to pay for a particular form of medical research constitute a violation of anyone?s rights?

    Who said it was a violation of rights. It’s just a bad decision. If my money is going to be thrown to scientific research, I don’t want it to preclude useful science. It’s not like any of us are going to get a refund, instead it will probably be shifted to a study that shows that abstinence education works or one of those idiotic studies that come out every week “proving” nonsense or the extraordinarily obvious like “People are more attractive when you are drunk,” “Can spiders make webs in zero gravity” or “Secondhand smoke is deadly (we might this time).” I think the first study may have been British, but there are quite a few American studies just as idiotic. The space program is expensive and misquided at the moment. We all know second-hand smoke studies are inconclusive at best. None of this has the potential that stem cell research has. If the government is going to flush money down the toilet, then I want a chance of a gold nugget floating to the top.

    It’s not like Bush is going to rebate that science money, he’s going to shift it to something else.

  23. SM- scary indeed. Is it just me, or is there something perverse about stacking a council that is supposed to advise you? A cynic might think that the council’s real purpose is to lend highbrow cred to the anti-cloning position. Blech.

  24. How did this thread shift from Stem Cell research to Human Cloning??? There is a difference, a major difference, but it seems people like Thorley would rather stifle any discussion of the science by bringing boogey men into the relm of slippery slope.

    Are there rogue scientists out there that would like to pursue human cloning, sure there are, but not as many as the scare mongers would have you believe.

    Stem Cell research IS the next revolution in bio science, Bush and the religious fanatics can cry and moan all they want, it is a reality, it will be researched, it will bring benifits to the human race. The dark ages did only one thing for europe, cause them to be technicaly inept for a thousand years, while cultures all over the world discovered amazing things like Algebra, literate populations, Astronomy, Geometry which gave us stunning architecutal design, meritime advances that allowed the founding of the new world, the list is endless.

    If Bush and the Religous elite in America want to usher in the 21st century equivilant of the dark ages thats thier call. The world will not stop advancing, people will continue the work elsewhere and reap the benifits. Sticking your head in the sand only blinds yourself…. but dont drag me into your darkness.

  25. Hey, Ron, last time I checked, the White House is free to fire whom they please (re: one of its councils).

    Or are you suggesting that the venal Bush house be required to fairly represent multiple sides of an argument. Don’t be so passive aggressive, next time. Tell us that you want the Bioethics Council to be something different than what Bush’s people want it to be. Next topic?

  26. “How did this thread shift from Stem Cell research to Human Cloning???”

    Well, the quote Ron Bailey lifted from the council’s report was specifically about cloning (as it applies to stem cell prodcution). So the thread never shifted to cloning, it was always about cloning.

    That being said, saying that Bush wil “usher in the 21st century equivilant of the dark ages” strikes me as more than a bit over the top. First off, their is no ethical objection to stem cell research per se. The objection is to where the stem cells come from, and how they are created. Dismissing these objections as mere religious fanaticism strikes me as an unserious rationalization of the issue. Such utilitarian views of human life have caused much suffering and injustice in the past.

  27. Thorley Winston:

    “Actually ?small government? conservatives and libertarians alike ought to welcome getting the government out of funding medical and biotechnology research, right?”

    Sure, but much larger in magnitude is the affront to small government conservatives and libertarians of a ban or the “four year moratorium” that is being pushed by the majority of “The President’s Council on Bioethics”, a majority that Bush is increasing.

    The existence of a ban or moratorium is likely to result in suffering and death that will not occur otherwise as medical research would be allowed to yield progress against disease.

  28. heh2k:

    “i’m sure, they (Republicans) no longer are for small government or less spending.”

    Bush isn’t, but many Republicans in congress are for smaller government or less spending, and they tend to vote for much less government spending than their Democrat counterparts. Verify at: NTU.org

  29. Ok; below is a repost from two threads down. Sorry, but I really don’t want the government to impose a “dark ages” on medical progress…

    Cloning shows promise against:

    Parkinson’s disease
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030922063529.htm

    Birth defects
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/12/031208141342.htm

    Brain damage
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/01/990126082134.htm

    Aging itself
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040227073500.htm

    Contact congress and tell them that this is way too important for them to get in the way! Please.

    http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

  30. Danny Vigil wrote:

    How did this thread shift from Stem Cell research to Human Cloning??? There is a difference, a major difference, but it seems people like Thorley would rather stifle any discussion of the science by bringing boogey men into the relm of slippery slope.

    Really and what ?boogey men? or ?slippery slope? have I invoked?

    I have simply pointed out that true libertarians ought to oppose federal funding of biotechnology research and that not funding a particular form of research does not constitute a violation of someone?s rights. I have made no comment about the ramifications of either human cloning or stem cell research as they are irrelevant to the issue I was addressing.

  31. Mo wrote:

    Who said it was a violation of rights.

    That would be the idiot who equivocated not funding a particular form of scientific research with ?forcing their religious beliefs on everyone.? Which was the post I was actually responding to.

    BTW it?s nice that you can invent a series of fictitious research topics but so far you have presented no evidence that not funding human cloning necessitates that we would spend federal research dollars on any of these as opposed to something else such as say research on stem cells from placenta, umbilical cords, and already destroyed embryonic lines.

  32. MJ wrote:

    That being said, saying that Bush wil “usher in the 21st century equivilant of the dark ages” strikes me as more than a bit over the top. First off, their is no ethical objection to stem cell research per se. The objection is to where the stem cells come from, and how they are created. Dismissing these objections as mere religious fanaticism strikes me as an unserious rationalization of the issue. Such utilitarian views of human life have caused much suffering and injustice in the past.

    Good point, the ?ban? (actually a moratorium) is actually quite limited in scope in that the following are not covered by the ?ban:?

    1) Privately funded research (which libertarians ought to support)
    2) Research funded by State tax dollars
    3) Research using stem cells from placenta and umbilical cords and not from human embryos
    4) Research using stem cells from the existing lines from already destroyed human embryos

    Which in a nut shell means that the ?ban? only covers federally funded research using stem cells from new lines created by the destruction of human embryos while not affect privately funded research, State-funded research, research on stem cells from placenta and umbilical cords, and research on already destroyed embryos. The only effect of the ban then is that the federal government will not fund research that involves destroying new human embryos.

    While I am opposed to the federal funding of most research, it seems to me that the moratorium is (a) consistent with principles of limited government (no affect on privately and State-funded research), (b) still provides federal funding for quite a bit of stem cell research (derived from placenta, umbilical cords, and already destroyed embryonic lines) and (c) does not promote the destruction of further human embryos.

    It seems both modest and reasonable to me and consistent with principles of limited government.

  33. Rick Barton wrote:

    Sure, but much larger in magnitude is the affront to small government conservatives and libertarians of a ban or the “four year moratorium” that is being pushed by the majority of “The President’s Council on Bioethics”, a majority that Bush is increasing.

    A Council that has zero governing authority regardless of whether the decisions are unanimous or divided. Besides which the only affect of the moratorium concerns federally funded research (something that true libertarians do not support anyway) that involves the destruction of new embryos while still funding research using stem cells from existing lines, placenta, and umbilical cords and having no affect on privately funded or State-funded research.

    There is simply no reason for any small government conservative or libertarian to care about this one way or the other.

    It is however understandable that people who are decidedly not ?small government conservatives and libertarians? who think that the federal government should assume the extra-constitutional authority to force taxpayers to fund medical research might be concerned as might people who have serious concerns about encouraging the destruction of human embryos. But those aren?t really libertarian or ?small government? positions.

  34. Question for Ronald Bailey:

    Since the party line of Reason magazine seems to be pro-privatization and anti-regulation for ________ (fill in pretty much any issue here), one would assume that you are against both the bioethics council and federal funding of research, correct?

    If not, why not, and how does this square with the rest of the positions taken from a “libertarian” perspective?

  35. Thorley maintains that:

    “…only affect of the (Council’s) moratorium concerns (only) federally funded research that involves the destruction of new embryos”

    But, this interpretation doesn’t make sense when we read the “Council’s Policy Recommendations” document.
    (linked to in intro. to thread)

    Note what it says:

    Majority Recommendation: Ten Members of the Council recommend a ban on cloning-to-produce-children combined with a four-year moratorium on cloning-for-biomedical-research.

    So, are we supposed to conclude that the “ban on cloning-to-produce-children”, also only concerns federally funded cloning to produce children. This does not appear to be the intent, so why would the “four-year moratorium on cloning-for-biomedical-research” concern only the federal funding of it.

    Also, no where in the document does it say that the recommendations are limited to the case of federal funding. In fact the words “federal funding” are not even mentioned in the document!

  36. Fictitious research? Check out these links Thorley:

    I was wrong about the beer goggles, the study was done in Scotland. The scientist’s other “studies” included finding out that a moderate alcohol intake can increase the risk of having unprotected sex.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/2201198.stm

    An article about spiders spinning webs in outer space. Those spiders never did make it back, but they got their chance to spin webs.
    http://onenews.nzoom.com/onenews_detail/0,1227,162322-1-9,00.html

    I really don’t think I need to prove that secondhand smoke studies have been done and have thusfar been pointless.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.