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Reform Jewish Leader Joins Bipartisan Group of Senators to Oppose Ban on all Forms of Cloning

Heller: Legislation that seeks to enact a sweeping ban on the use of [cloning] technology for any purpose is short-sighted and harmful. The moral imperative to pursue… research is clear; it is the embodiment of the mitzvah of healing.


Contact : Alexis Rice or Sarah Lipton-Lubet 202-387-2800

WASHINGTON, February 5, 2003 - Robert M. Heller, Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism (CSA), issued the following statement welcoming the introduction of therapeutic cloning bipartisan legislation bill being introduced today by Senators Feinstein, Hatch, Kennedy, and Specter.

    In Deuteronomy we learn that we have been given a choice between life and death. "Choose life," our text commands us, "that you and your descendants may live." The great medieval Jewish physician and philosopher, Moses Maimonides, taught that "the one who saves a single life, it is regarded as if that person has preserved the entire world." Our teachings are clear: As Jews, we are charged with the preservation of life.

    Genetic and fetal tissue research, including human somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) technology, hold tremendous promise to find cures or treatments for a wide array of serious medical conditions. Ailments that hold the greatest potential for being cured include breast and prostate cancer, leukemia, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, spinal cord injuries and Huntington's chorea. Experts are also working to use genetic and fetal tissue research to help repair and regenerate human tissues, nerve cells, and skin cells.

    Human SCNT research raises complex ethical and moral questions, particularly about the potential misuse of science. Recent reports of the cloning of human beings have brought these issues to the forefront of the public's consciousness. However, on balance, the results of genetic and fetal tissue research thus far have given us reason to be optimistic. We must move forward with cautious conviction.

    Legislation that seeks to enact a sweeping ban on the use of SCNT technology for any purpose is short-sighted and harmful. The moral imperative to pursue SCNT research is clear; it is the embodiment of the mitzvah of healing. Our tradition requires that we use all available knowledge to heal the ill, "when one who delays in doing so, it is as if he has shed blood." (Shulchan Arukh Yore De`ah 336:1.)

    Congress should adopt measures, such as the bipartisan bill being introduced today by Senators Feinstein, Hatch, Kennedy, and Specter, that will allow for continued medical research, including human somatic cell nuclear transfer technology, while protecting against the misuse of science.

    Maimonides taught, "G-d created food and water; we must use them in staving off hunger and thirst. G-d created drugs and compounds and gave us the intelligence necessary to discover their medical properties; we must use them in warding off illness and disease." Only God can create life. Yet God has charged us with doing everything possible to preserve the lives we are given. God has given us the wisdom to make informed ethical decisions; we must apply that wisdom as science continues to pose challenging moral questions and offer great possibilities. Finally, denying funds for medical research that can fulfill our obligation to engage in the healing of human suffering is exactly the wrong step to take.

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    The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .




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