. "La Penible Valse Hesitation: Fetal Tissue Research Review and the Use of Bioethics Commissions in France and the United States." Society's Choices: Social and Ethical Decision Making in Biomedicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1995.
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Society's Choices: Social and Ethical Decision Making in Biomedicine
That panel was appointed in 1988, and was known as the Human Fetal Tissue Transplantation Research Panel (HFTTR). An ad hoc selection committee deliberately chose a politically acceptable chair, Arlin Adams. Known as a conservative opponent of abortion, Adams nonetheless took seriously the appearance of impartiality flowing from his position as a federal judge. A prominent physician (Kenneth Ryan), ethicist (Leroy Walters), and abortion opponent (James Bopp) were added to the roster to round out appearances and leadership, and an additional 17 panel members were selected by NIH's internal ad hoc committee. 26
On September 9, 1988, during the week before the NIH panel opened its hearing, a draft executive order from President Reagan banning all fetal tissue research was disclosed. The order appeared to have been drafted and circulated by White House domestic policy adviser Gary Bauer. According to a published news account, "Some committee members expressed dismay that the White House would draft such an order before the NIH advisory panel had a chance to hear a word of testimony, but spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the draft did not represent the official White House position."27 From the beginning, then, the efforts of this national panel to provide dispassionate advice leading to a consensus on research regulations had a bit of a farcical quality; political considerations seemed clearly to dominate ethical concerns.
Nonethless, on September 14-16, 1988, the NIH special advisory panel held three days of hearings on fetal tissue research. While most speakers urged the panel to consider the scientific value and ethical acceptability of fetal tissue research apart from controversy over abortion, the abortion issue quickly dominated the debate. At the conclusion of the hearings, the panel voted 19 to 0, with two abstentions, that use of tissue from legally aborted fetuses for medical research and treatment is "acceptable." Chairman Adams called that vote "tentative," but said it meant that "we are willing to go ahead with the use of fetal tissue in medical research if we could take a series of steps to insure that the abortion procedure is sufficiently insulated from the medical research that comes afterward."28 The vote was preliminary and unbinding, however, and the panel carefully took no stand on the morality of abortion. Indeed, Kenneth Ryan, the NIH panel's scientific chairman, said the committee would try to ''steer a conciliatory, practical approach to policy" on fetal tissue research, despite the volatility of the abortion issue.29
A month later the NIH advisory committee met again to continue its work on its advisory report to NIH officials. The panel attempted, within severe time constraints and the subject matter limitations of Windom's charge to the committee, to arrive at a consensus concerning the principles and values that ought to guide fetal research. Those included (1) the moral status of the fetus and of abortion; (2) the possibility that deriving