November 26, 2014 · 4 Kislev

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Reform Jewish Leaders Urge Bush to Promote Embryonic Stem Cell Research

"Cutting off funding for medical research that has such tremendous potential benefits - even where, as here, it raises complex and far-reaching issues - is both immoral and unethical according to our tradition."

Contact: Alexis Rice or Mike Silver (202) 387-2800

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2001 -- In a letter today to President George W. Bush and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, a group of Reform Jewish leaders voiced their support for carefully regulated federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. The letter recommends the Administration pursue an approach to the complex moral issue that will "promote and nurture the very real promise this potentially live-saving medical research offers us all." The complete letter follows:

    On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, we write in support of the use of federal funds to conduct research involving stem cells derived from human embryos produced through the in vitro fertilization process.

    Experimental data has shown embryonic stem cells have the ability to develop into brain, liver, nerve and heart muscle cells. Many scientists believe continuation of this research will play a key role in developing new and effective treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, Parkinson's and certain types of cancers. An estimated 128 million Americans are afflicted with conditions that may benefit from embryonic stem cell research.

    The proposed guidelines for federal funding of stem cell research currently under review by the Administration would impose ethical safeguards that private funding alone would not ensure. Scientists only would be permitted to use embryos already earmarked for destruction and which had been released with consent from donors who already had decided against their implantation. These clear guidelines give us reason to support a measured, cautious approach towards dealing with the complex moral issues associated with stem cell research.

    Our Jewish tradition reminds us that while only God can create life, God has charged humans with doing everything possible to preserve it. "I have put before you this day life and death. Choose life, that you and your children may live" (Deuteronomy 30:20). As the UAHC noted in a 1993 resolution on fetal tissue research, Jewish authorities have used the concept of pikuach nefesh, or the primary responsibility to save human life, which overrides almost all other laws, to approve a broad range of medical experimentation. Cutting off funding for medical research that has such tremendous potential benefits - even where, as here, it raises complex and far-reaching issues - is both immoral and unethical according to our tradition.

    We urge the Administration to implement the proposed guidelines allowing for carefully regulated federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, and in doing so, promote and nurture the very real promise this potentially live-saving medical research offers us all.

    Sincerely,

    Rabbi Richard F. Address, D. Min
    Director,
    UAHC Department of Jewish Family Concerns

    Mark J. Pelavin
    Associate Director,
    Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

    Jean Abarbanel
    Chair,
    UAHC Department of Jewish Family Concerns

    David S. Davidson
    Chair,
    Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism



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