The Myth of the "Value" of Human Fetal Tissue Research

"Human fetal tissue research has gone on for decades.  However, the success of fetal tissue transplants has been meager at best, and ethically-derived alternatives exist and are coming to dominate the field."  Written Testimony of David A. Prentice, Ph.D.

Perhaps you have heard that a ban on the sale of baby body parts "could" have a disastrous side effect, halting cutting-edge medical research.  In Wisconsin, Robert Golden, dean of the UW-Madison medical school, told lawmakers the bill (Wisconsin's Assembly Bill 305would “shut the door on promising lines of research,” and "it would affect university research that uses cells derived from fetal tissue.  Labs on campus use the cells to test treatments for cancer and other illnesses. This life-saving research would come to a complete, abrupt stop in Wisconsin,” Golden said.

This "research" might negatively affect the lucrative salaries of UW-Madison employees, but is unlikely to have much positive effect on curing diseases.  

The following statements from Dr. David A. Prentice, in support of Wisconsin's Assembly Bill 305 to prohibit sales and use of fetal body parts from abortion,  are exerpted from Written Testimony of David A. Prentice, Ph.D. in Support of Wisconsin Bill to Prohibit Sales and Use of Fetal Body Parts from Abortion.

"There is no sound scientific reason for the continued trafficking of fetal tissue, organs, and body parts.  Moreover, the practice of using fetal body parts from induced abortion raises significant ethical problems, not least of which is the nebulous interpretation of valuable consideration or compensation for expenses in the harvest and processing of fetal organs and body parts.  The proposed legislation in AB 305 would remove any ambiguity regarding monetary incentive.

"Between 1970 and 1991 approximately 1,500 people received fetal pancreatic tissue transplants in attempts to treat diabetes, mostly in the former Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.  Up to 24 fetuses were used per transplant, but less than 2% of patients responded.  Today, patients take insulin shots and pharmaceuticals to control their diabetes, and adult stem cell transplants have shown success at ameliorating the condition.

"A recent 2009 report emphasizes the instability and danger of fetal tissue transplants.  A patient with Huntington’s disease was recruited into a study (funded by NIH) in which she had fetal brain cells injected into her brain.  She did not improve, and instead developed in her brain a growing mass of tissue, euphemistically termed “graft overgrowth” by the researchers.

"Disastrous results for patients are seen not only with fetal tissue but also with fetal stem cells.  In a recent example, a young boy developed tumors on his spine, resulting from fetal stem cells injected into his body."

See Also:

History of Fetal Tissue Research and Transplants