Should the government fund embryonic stem cell research?
Though they’re microscopic, stem cells have proven to be an explosive point of debate between medical researchers and right-to-life advocates.
Scientists want to use embryonic stem cells (ESC) to study diseases. They believe that working with human cells at their most basic could lead to breakthroughs in treating spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s, and other life-threatening conditions. President Barack Obama issued an executive order allowing federal money to pay for ESC research in 2009.
But getting the cells for the research means destroying a human embryo; in other words, it means destroying a form of human life. This has set some of the public against it.
|The debate over stem cells is a perfect example of our government’s system of checks and balances in action. The president issued an executive order to get something – expansion of a controversial field of medical research – that was at odds with a law Congress had already passed. The framers of our Constitution knew government leaders would run into these sorts of conflicts, which is why they made a provision for separation of powers. In this case, the judicial branch weighed in and took the side of Congress. But the checks and balances continue, since President Obama is appealing the ruling.
A recent ruling by a federal judge has overturned President Obama’s executive order, saying that it violated a 1987 law prohibiting the use of taxpayer money for any research in which a human embryo is destroyed.
Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia took a broad approach in his ruling.
Say a research project doesn’t destroy an embryo itself. If it uses previously obtained embryonic stem cells, it still is not eligible for federal funding. “If one step or ‘piece of research’ of an ESC research project results in the destruction of an embryo, the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding,” Lamberth wrote.
Medical researchers said the ruling could be devastating to their work. Todd McDevitt of Georgia Tech’s Stem Engineering Center said his state doesn’t offer money for stem cell research; his projects were funded primarily by federal taxpayer money.
“It prevents me from going forward with future plans,” McDevitt told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Now I’m going to have to either find other funding resources or wait.”
Research could also be conducted on adult stem cells, which can be gathered from a living person without harm. Scientists say these are not as flexible and easy to work with as embryonic stem cells. Opponents think they should find a way.
"Frequently people will say why are you opposed to stem cell research,” Ron Stoddart, director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions, told CNN. “And of course are answer is, we're not. We're opposed to the destruction of the embryos to get embryo stem cells."
Stoddart’s organization was part of the group that filed the initial lawsuit that led to Judge Lamberth’s ruling. President Obama has since said he will appeal the decision. In a statement, the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research said, “We have full confidence that the extensive, deliberative process that shaped federal guidelines now in place will be upheld upon further review.”
What do you think?
Do you think the judge ruled correctly by stopping federal funding of ESC research? Are you comfortable with your family’s taxpayer dollars supporting medical research that could save lives when that research destroys a form of human life? Do you think that scientists should find a way to work on adult stem cells instead?
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