Expert Dianne Irving explains why countries are approving unethical research

NEW YORK, October 10, 2001 ( – LifeSite has been perplexed by the recent spate of approvals of unethical research on human embryos in Australia, Britain, New Zealand, India, and Japan, despite scientific evidence indicating the vast superiority of adult stem cell research. While adult stem cells have already been used to cure diseases, embryonic stem cell research involving humans has led to disastrous results.

LifeSite interviewed one of the world's foremost experts in the field, Dr. Dianne Irving who provided some answers to this puzzling development. Dr. Irving, is a former bench biochemist/biologist researcher (National Institutes of Health, NIH), a Ph.D. Philosopher, and a Medical Ethicist.

Dr. Irving told LifeSite that it is no surprise that various countries have been following a predictable pattern in approving embryonic stem cell research despite countervailing scientific evidence. The reason is that the international community is reading from the same erroneous page when it comes to decisions around research on human embryos – an erroneous definition of the human embryo as fostered by the false science of bioethics.

Dr. Irving explained that similar to the NSSM 200 US population control policy that became US law and was subsequently adopted by the United Nations and promoted the world over, bioethics was spread formally first from the US.

Bioethics was established as a quasi-ethical framework by order of the US Congress to address research on human subjects. In 1974 Congress passed the National Research Act which mandated that a National Commission be set up which in 1978 issued the Belmont Report. The report identified three ethical principles to be used by government to evaluate research on human subjects: respect for persons, justice, and beneficence, but perverted the definitions of these terms to suit their own ends.

Rather than the traditional Hippocratic understanding of beneficence as doing “good” for the individual patient, the report used a utilitarian definition: doing “good” for society, or, “the greatest good for the greatest number”. While “justice” in its classic Aristotelian definition refers to treating people fairly as individuals, the report saw justice as allocating the benefits and burdens of research fairly across the social spectrum. And finally, “respect for persons” became respect only for 'persons' defined as fully conscious, rational adults capable of acting autonomously. The redefined principles, according to Dr. Irving, “bear no relation to the patient-centered Hippocratic ethics that for nearly 2500 years required physicians to treat every human being in their care as worthy of respect! , no matter now sick or small, weak or disabled.”

The report also contained what Dr. Irving called a “false embryology”. The National Commission defined “fetus” as “the product of conception from the time of implantation” rather than fertilization; and pregnancy as “the period of time from confirmation of implantation….” Personhood was defined in terms of “knowing, willing, self-consciousness, etc., or the feeling of pain or pleasure.” Such positions provided “a 'theoretical' support” for the use of early human embryos and fetuses “for the common good” or “for the advancement of science' and was therefore considered “ethical.”

“In 1981 the Belmont principles immediately became the explicit foundation for the guidelines that the U.S. federal government's Office for Protection from Research Risks (OPRR) was to use when assessing the ethics of using human subjects in research,” said Dr. Irving. “These bioethics principles, as originally defined, also underlie a host of other federal regulations and guidelines for medical research, and have worked their way into the private and international sectors as well.” Dr. Irving notes that international bioethics groups sprang up across the globe all using the same bioethics principles and false embryology as defined in the Belmont report.

The United Nations formed the International Bioethics Committee in 1993 under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Dr. Irving notes that the 1994 UNESCO Directory lists 498 such bioethics centers outside the United States – all using the Belmont definitions. Interestingly, Dr. Irving points out that as of 1997 there was an International Association of Bioethics, founded by Australian bioethicists. The first president was now Princeton University Professor Peter Singer who is notorious for his endorsement of infanticide.

Dr. Irving explained that bioethics centers proliferated internationally as foreign scientists and ethicists would study at one of the founding U.S. bioethics centers and then replicate the programs in their own countries. The theoretical underpinning of the Belmont report came from three major “think tanks”: The Hastings Center in New York, The Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University (KIE), and the Society of Health and Human Values.

Dr. Irving, whose Ph.D. included a doctoral concentration in secular bioethics at KIE, revealed that most international bioethicists communicate back and forth by computer software written and maintained by KIE, including “Bioethics Line” maintained by the The National Library Of Medicine at NIH.