Investigating fetal tissue research practices

A recent New York Times article discusses the special House committee that is investigating fetal tissue research in the US and allegations of violations of federal laws that forbid profiting from the sale of human organs or tissue. The committee is preparing to issue 17 subpoenas to medical supply companies and laboratories, seeking the names of researchers, graduate students, laboratory technicians and administrative personnel. The chair of the committee says that they need to identify individuals involved in fetal tissue research so that they can have them testify about how this is being done to determine if federal laws are being violated. University officials and others responsible for such research have objected that the subpoenas will put the lives of researchers at risk. They say they are concerned that those identified will be at risk from violent anti-abortion activists.

Let me be clear. Violence against anyone is wrong. No matter what position a person takes on abortion or the selling of fetal parts, bombing clinics or threatening those involved in research is wrong. However, it is important to investigate alleged violations federal law even though there are times when being a witness in a federal investigation may put the witness at risk. It is the responsibility of government to try to minimize that risk, but the investigation still needs to be done. One wonders if the New York Times would be so concerned if the investigation was about the misuse of animals in research and the risk to the researchers was from violent animal rights activists.

Let me be clear again. Mistreatment of animals in research is wrong. However, there is something wrong with a society that is more concerned about mistreating animals than what has been alleged regarding the treatment of unborn human beings.

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Jon Holmlund
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Jon Holmlund

This has been covered prominently in the San Diego general press. An additional concern of scientists is that, they say, subpoenas are heavy-handed, and that they are willing to cooperate with requests to document their practices. FWIW.