Life-issues coordinator appointed to stem-cell ethics committee - Catholic Courier
Jann Armantrout (left), life-issues coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester, talks with Nerina Bellinger after a 2006 presentation at Victor's St. Patrick Church. Jann Armantrout (left), life-issues coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester, talks with Nerina Bellinger after a 2006 presentation at Victor's St. Patrick Church.

Life-issues coordinator appointed to stem-cell ethics committee

New York Gov. David Paterson recently appointed Jann Armantrout, life-issues coordinator for the Diocese of Rochester, to a two-year term on the Empire State Stem Cell Board’s Ethics Committee.

 New York State Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) nominated Armantrout for the post.

"He had been present at the Bishops’ Legislative Luncheons when I presented on stem cells and we have similar views regarding the dignity of the human person from conception," Armantrout said.

Last summer Kolb’s office contacted Armantrout through Jack Balinsky, director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester, to see if she was interested in the post. Armantrout told Kolb’s staff she was interested and then went through a lengthy process of interviews and investigations conducted by the New York State Police and the governor’s appointment staff. After these officials documented Armantrout’s education, experience, financial interest and published articles, Paterson appointed her to the post. She attended her first committee meeting Dec. 17 in Manhattan.

Armantrout and the other 11 members of the Ethics Committee will assist in the ethical evaluation of stem-cell projects under consideration for state funding. The ethics committee also includes New York State Health Commissioner Richard Daines and Father Thomas Berg, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and executive director of The Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.

The committee’s members represent a variety of backgrounds and ethical stances on the issue of the procurement and utilization of stem cells in research and medical treatment. The board’s funding committee includes Bradford Berk, senior vice president for health sciences at the University of Rochester and chief executive officer of the University of Rochester Medical Center and Strong Memorial Hospital. The university has not shown reservations about destroying embryos in order to use embryonic stem cells, Armantrout noted.

Armantrout said she feels privileged to serve on the stem-cell board. Through this post, she hopes to be able to articulate citizens’ concerns regarding the protection and dignity of the human being and the safety of the human community as understood through Catholic social teaching. She also hopes to help ensure these concerns are recorded and incorporated into the decision-making process, she said.

"I firmly believe that when these ethical concerns are accommodated, scientific progress using nonembyro sources, as demonstrated by researchers and doctors throughout the world, will assist in treatments being available for patients now," Armantrout said. "While advocating for the advancement of science and medicine, I firmly believe that the least advantaged of society must not be exploited or their position worsened in the name of progress.".

A Webster resident, Armantrout earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from SUNY New Paltz and is certified in Catholic health-care ethics through the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. She became the Diocese of Rochester’s life-issues coordinator in 2000 and also has served on the New York State Catholic Conference’s Public Policy Committee for six years. She also is a founding member of the Rochester-area Adult Stem Cell Initiative Inc.

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