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Monday, March 9, 2009

Obama's Embryonic Stem Cell Policy

In a move that was promised and expected—and is being heavily covered by the press—President Barack Obama has signed an executive order that lifts restrictions on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. "We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research," he said at the signing (pictured here). "And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield."
This means scientists can now receive government grants to further their research on embryonic stem cells, no matter when the cells were—or are—created. (The stem cell lines are typically derived from the thousands of leftover embryos that are stored in fertility clinics and would otherwise be discarded. Keep in mind that there is still a law that bans federal funds for experiments that create embryos specifically for research in which they'll be destroyed). Former President George W. Bush's policy, on the other hand, had banned federal funding of research on any embryonic stem cell line created after August 9, 2001.
The decision to reverse that policy, Obama said, wasn't based solely on science. "When it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values," he said. "In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent. As a person of faith, I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research—and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly. It is a difficult and delicate balance. Many thoughtful and decent people are conflicted about, or strongly oppose, this research. I understand their concerns, and we must respect their point of view. But after much discussion, debate, and reflection, the proper course has become clear."
Obama also signed a memorandum aimed at restoring and protecting the integrity of science under his administration, ensuring that "we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisers based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions," he said.
As we reported back in December, 53 percent of the public believes scientific decisions should be based primarily on risks and benefits rather than moral and ethical issues, while 56 percent feels that "scientific research these days doesn’t pay enough attention to the moral values of society." More specifically, the survey found that 57 percent of Americans are in favor of embryonic stem cell research, while 36 percent oppose it.
Obama has given the National Institutes of Health four months to come us with new rules and regulations regarding human stem cell research. —Heather Wax


Voicedup said...

Let's think of how many Americans are suffering from ailments and what this research can do for them. I'm sure everyone reading this knows someone important to them that is affected by one of these maladies.Research in the U.S.has not progressed since earlier this decade, cures are a very long time away and lets not even discuss the approval requirement by the FDA. At least this can be seen as a huge step forward to join the rest of the world at bringing about cures that could help millions of people including you and I some day.