Florida’s Senators Join Mike Lee in Urging HHS Evaluate Expanding Ethical Sources of Fetal Tissue

Florida’s two U.S. senators–Marco Rubio and Rick Scott–joined more than a dozen other Republican senators in signing U.S. Sen. Mike Lee’s, R-Utah, letter to U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Sec. Xavier Becerra requesting that the agency evaluate its ability to expand the existing organ donation network to include preterm and stillborn infant donors, so as to provide an ethical alternative to aborted fetal tissue. The letter also makes it clear that under no circumstance should scientific research and experimentation use cells or tissues derived from abortion.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Secretary Becerra,

We write to express our support for the ethical discovery of treatments and cures that save American lives. Specifically, we request that you evaluate the agency’s ability to expand our nation’s existing organ-donation network to include spontaneously miscarried and stillborn infant donors. We believe doing so could provide a solution to the need for an ethical alternative to aborted fetal tissue and support HHS’s effort to ethically advance the field of medicine.

Respecting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is critically important and this action would be a significant step toward protecting human life at all stages. If a consistent, high-quality, and ethically uncontroversial source of human fetal tissue exists, medical research would undoubtedly expand, advancing our nation’s understanding of human development and leading to potentially life-saving discoveries. Such a consistent, uncontroversial source of organs and tissues would also meet the requirements as set out in NIH Guide Notice NOT-OD-19-128 and preclude the necessity of Ethics Advisory Board review (per 42 U.S.C. 289a-1, as amended), easing the minds of researchers and advancing superior scientific methods.

Notably, organ donation after the death of a child has been found to bring comfort to grieving parents. But despite this, there is currently only a limited ability to use donated material from preterm and stillborn infants for conventional organ transplant. Expanding the opportunities to make a potentially life-saving donation for basic and clinical research following the tragic loss of an infant due to natural causes would be of great benefit to many grieving parents.

We look forward to a response outlining the ways in which HHS could encourage an expansion of the organ donation network to include an ethical source of human fetal tissue.

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