A two-day international conference on stem cell research was held at the Vatican this week. Pope Benedict XVI spoke favourably about adult stem cell research and called for any resulting treatments to benefit all those who need care, regardless of their financial situation. Speakers included: Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, Head of the Pontifical Council for Life, bioethicist Arthur Caplan, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Robin Smith, CEO of NeoStem, a US-based stem cell bank where people can store their stem cells for potential future use. While the conference offered a good deal of hope for stem cell therapies, some commentators expressed concerns about the presentation.
Art Caplan expressed some skepticism about the conclusions reached at the conference in an MSNBC comment:
“While some top-tier science was presented at the conference, there was too much time given to claims of cure that had little to support them but patient testimonials, small studies with no long-term follow-up, and, to be blunt, some science that has nothing but the backing of a single very optimistic scientist looking to attract a grant or an investor.”
A Forbes commentator noted that the conference did not address embryonic stem cell research: “…embryonic stem cell research needs to be discussed more broadly, even by institutions or groups that have ethical questions about it.”
Pope Benedict said in an address to the conference:
“…the potential benefits of adult stem cell research are very considerable, since it opens up possibilities for healing chronic degenerative illnesses by repairing damaged tissue and restoring its capacity for regeneration. The improvement that such therapies promise would constitute a significant step forward in medical science, bringing fresh hope to sufferers and their families alike.
For this reason, the Church naturally offers her encouragement to those who are engaged in conducting and supporting research of this kind, always with the proviso that it be carried out with due regard for the integral good of the human person and the common good of society.” ~ Forbes, Nov 15; Zenit, Nov 14; MSNBC, Nov 13; AFP, Nov 14