In letters sent to two sponsors of the bill, Alan I. Leshner, the chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of the journal Science, reaffirmed the association's position that cloning to extract stem cells from early-stage human embryos for research purposes "holds great promise." But he also noted that "the benefits will only be realized through carefully designed research" that is subject to appropriate ethical and legal oversight. And he reiterated that AAAS has endorsed a legal ban on any efforts to clone human embryos to produce babies.
Leshner's letter was faxed Monday 28 March 28 2005 as a committee of the Washington State Senate holds a hearing on the bill, which already has been approved by the state's House of Representatives. The letter was sent to state Rep. Shay Schual-Berke, a physician and sponsor of the bill in the House, and state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a co-sponsor in the Senate who has a Ph.D. in sociology. Both are Democrats.
The bill includes some specific ethical guidelines, such as the patient's right to full disclosure and civil penalties for reproductive cloning.
Legislators in several states, including Maryland, have attempted to follow the lead of California in backing stem cell research that President George W. Bush restricted at the federal level in 2001. In Congress, the House leadership reportedly has agreed to allow a floor vote this session on a proposal to ease the federal restrictions and allow study of newer stem cell lines derived from embryos discarded by fertility clinics.
[For more information, read the full letter. ]