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Stem Cell Research Should Be Federally Funded

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Embryonic Stem Cell Research Should Be Federally Funded

The undifferentiated cells of a human embryo, referred to as stem cells, hold limitless promise for medical research. When a human embryo consists of not more than 64 cells, its cells are able to learn new ways of being. If injected into a diseased kidney, they take on many of the properties of ordinary kidney cells, and may help the kidney to perform its normal function. This seems to hold for any organ, even any kind of cell. (Goldstein) This is exciting medical researchers, because it means that the cells from an early embryo could cure leukemia, enable people with diabetes to manufacture insulin, treat Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, and repair the nerve systems of quadriplegics.

Although human stem cell research has tremendous medical potential, some of our citizens and 2008 presidential candidates want to prohibit our best and brightest federally funded university scientists and physicians from working with human stem cells. They do so because of ethical concerns about the origins of these cells, which were derived from the earliest human stage embryos. Abortion opponents are attempting to ban stem cell research on the grounds that it is unethical. This is untrue. There is no reason to object to research conducted on a being that has no brain, consciousness, preferences of any kind, or capacity for suffering. To quote the religious, anti-abortion, yet still sensible, Republican Senator Orin Hatch from his letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, "In evaluating this issue, it is significant to point out that no member of the United States Supreme Court has ever taken the position that fetuses, let alone embryos, are constitutionally protected persons. As much as I oppose partial birth abortion, I simply cannot equate this offensive abortion practice with the act of disposing of a frozen embryo in the case where the embryo will never complete the journey toward birth. Nor, for example, can I imagine Congress or the courts somehow attempting to order every 'spare' embryo through a full-term pregnancy." (Goldstein)

Testifying at a hearing before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee on March 19, 2007, Elias Zerhouni, the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated that "our nation would be better served if federally-funded scientists had access to new embryonic stem cell lines for research." (

There are several major reasons to believe that federal support of human stem cell research is both appropriate and ethical:

1) Banning federal funding for human stem cell research will not eliminate it. Such research will proceed in private industry and in other countries. This fact prompts concern that the work may then be conducted in secret, without the benefit of ethical regulation or public debate as it proceeds.

2) Using federal funds for human stem cell research ensures that our best and most capable scientists will participate in this research. Without such funding, new treatments will be delayed by years, and many who might otherwise have been saved will probably die or endure needless suffering.

3) Federal funding is the best way to guarantee that stem cell therapies are developed with the greatest consideration of the public good. Without federal funding, it is likely that stem-cell derived treatments will only be found for diseases that commercial companies determine will yield the largest profit if treated.

4) Although it is essential that we use federal funds to support stem cell research, the stem cells themselves will be derived without using federal funds from early embryos that would have been discarded anyway. In vitro fertilization treatments for childless couples often produce more embryos than can be implanted into the mother. These embryos cannot develop on their own, have only a few cells, and must either be stored in freezers indefinitely, or eventually destroyed. There is no other ethical use for these embryos if the parents choose not to have them implanted into the mother.

(Stem Cell Research Foundation)

Senator and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been very vocal in her support for federally funded embryonic stem cell research. She has also raised concerns regarding the current Bush administration and its practice of ignoring, contorting, or suppressing work by government scientists if they contradict administration's views on scientific awareness on things such as climate and stem cell research.

In a critique of Bush administration science policy given during an October 2007 speech laying out her campaign's agenda, Senator Clinton said that if she were



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