Administration Moves to Bind Human Tissue Research to Ethical Considerations
July 3, 2019
by Jonathan Imbody
By implementing a new policy promulgated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Trump administration has moved to stop taxpayer funding of the use of fetal tissue, from elective abortions, for research purposes.
HHS officials explained the rationale for the new policy in a statement excerpted below [emphases added]:
Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration. The audit and review helped inform the policy process that led to the administration’s decision to let the contract with UCSF expire and to discontinue intramural research – research conducted within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – involving the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortion. Intramural research that requires new acquisition of fetal tissue from elective abortions will not be conducted.
No current extramural research projects (research conducted outside NIH, e.g., at universities, that are funded by NIH grants) will be affected during their currently approved project period. For new extramural research grant applications or current research projects in the competitive renewal process (generally every five years) that propose to use fetal tissue from elective abortions and that are recommended for potential funding through NIH’s two-level external scientific review process, an ethics advisory board will be convened to review the research proposal and recommend whether, in light of the ethical considerations, NIH should fund the research project—pursuant to a law passed by Congress.
Finally, HHS is continuing to review whether adequate alternatives exist to the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions in HHS-funded research and will ensure that efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated. In December 2018, NIH announced a $20 million funding opportunity for research to develop, demonstrate, and validate experimental models that do not rely on human fetal tissue from elective abortions. HHS is committed to providing additional funding to support the development and validation of alternative models.
Shifting research values from utilitarianism to human dignity
This courageous and right decision gets the government and our tax dollars out of the sordid business of using tissue from developing babies who have died as a result of elective abortions. Our government now will focus our resources instead on developing sustainable, ethical research that has real potential to save real lives.
The combination of adhering to life-honoring ethical standards while also aggressively pursuing and investing in scientific innovation is the best path to solid advances in medicine that every American can support and many patients can embrace for healing.
Your opportunity: Ethics advisory board service
CMDA members with significant expertise and experience in medical and research ethics, who would like to be recommended for consideration to serve on an ad hoc HHS ethics advisory board as described above, should email email@example.com.