Leon Kass, the chairman of President Bush's bioethics advisory council and a known opponent of human cloning, has received a public apology from Stanford University, after he accused it of trying to conceal the true nature of its stem cell research programme and of misleading the public on the council's views.
Stanford University announced last month that it will use nuclear transfer to produce human 'embryos' in order to produce embryonic stem cells for research into disease and injury at its new Institute for Cancer, Stem Cell Biology and Medicine. Dr Irving Weissman, the director of the new Institute, disputed the use of the term 'human embryonic cloning', saying that it had been condemned by the National Academy of Science and that even the President's council had said that it was 'inaccurate and misleading'. He argued that to use the term cloning at all meant the therapeutic technique was linked to reproductive cloning and would not gain public support, and preferred instead the term 'nuclear transplantation to produce human pluripotent stem cell lines'. A 'fact sheet' using such terminology was posted on the Stanford website.
But the President's Council on Bioethics had not called therapeutic cloning an inaccurate term, said Kass, adding that the council had devoted an entire chapter of a recent report to terminology issues in which it had argued that the term 'cloned human embryo' was the most appropriate. He argued that the council wanted to resist 'the temptation to solve the moral questions by artful redefinition', and demanded that Stanford University publicly correct Dr Weissman's statement. An apology for misquoting the council was issued soon after and some of the wording was changed on the Stanford website.