Tuesday, July 27, 2004

The Bush administration's restrictions on embryonic stem cell research should be repealed

Why you're right:

1. The restrictions impede the discovery of new treatments or cures for severely debilitating diseases. Stem Cell research has great potential to uncover breakthrough treatments for ailments such as Alzheimer's disease, spinal injuries, Parkinson's and diabetes. President Bush has prohibited federal funding for stem cell lines created after August 2001. As a result federally funded researchers do not have access to newer lines that "show more potential to be developed into cures." Even the Bush administration has recently conceded "from a purely scientific perspective more cell lines may well speed some areas of human embryonic stem cell research." (Washington Post)

2. Restricting federal funding limits the ability for federal oversight. Due to the federal restrictions much stem cell research goes on in the private sector where it is far harder to control legitimately unethical or sloppy practices. Dr. Leon Kass, the chairman of President Bush's bioethics counsel, acknowledged "to keep the federal government out of certain activities...[may mean] that worse practices are allowed to proceed without oversight or regulation in the private sector." (New York Times)

Why they're wrong:

1. Adult stems cells are not an effective substitute. According to the NIH, Adult stem cells are often present only in minute quantities, are difficult to isolate and purify, and their numbers may decrease with age." Further while embryonic stem cells "have truly amazing abilities to self-renew and to form many different cell types, even complex tissues...the full potential of adult stem cells is uncertain, and, in fact, there is evidence to suggest they may be more limited." (NIH)

2. Hundreds of thousands of embryonic cells are destroyed anyway. An embryonic stem cell is not an embryo or a baby but a cluster of about 150 cells called "blastocysts." Fertility clinics already distroy about 400,000 existing blastocysts each year which could be used for research. (San Diego Union Tribune)