Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ethics: China already has clear stem-cell guidelines

SIR — As scientists and ethicists who care about stem-cell research in China, we disagree with the statement in your News story “Panel clarifies stem-cell rules” (Nature 440, 9; 2006) that “China lacks clear national policies, with different institutes following different rules”.

In fact, China’s government has issued several guidelines to regulate human stemcell research. These include guidelines on human assisted-reproductive technologies, issued by the Ministry of Health in July 2003, and ethical guidelines for research on human embryonic stem cells, jointly issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health in December 2003. Both explicitly prohibit human reproductive cloning, and the latter is similar in principle to the guidelines proposed by the US National Academies (

It is true that national policies on human stem-cell research in China are not laws. With some further improvement, however, we think they are adequate, as nearly all scientific research in China relies on government funding. There have been cases in China where a few medical practitioners have used human fetal tissues or cells to treat patients, without required government approvals or appropriate clinical trials. We believe that this practice is against commonly accepted principles of modern scientific research.

Infringements are a matter of law enforcement against unapproved medical practices, as in any lawful and civilized country, and should not be viewed as unethical examples of human stem-cell research in China.

Linzhao Cheng
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 733
North Broadway, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA
Other signatories of this letter:
Ren-Zong Qiu Center for Bioethics, Peking Union Medical College, China
Hongkui Deng Peking University College of Life Sciences, Beijing, China
Yu Alex Zhang Capital University of Medical Sciences, Beijing, China
Ying Jin Institute of Health Sciences, Shanghai, China
Lingsong Li Peking University Stem Cell Center, Beijing, China

NATUREVol 44020 April 2006


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