Federal agencies, Capitol Hill and pro-lifers are debating the alleged necessity of using human embryos in research, weighing ethics along with the possible medical benefits.
The debate about the ethics of human-embryo stem-cell research is heating up in the nation's capital. This research burst on the medical scene in late 1998 and prompted the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, to issue draft guidelines in December 1999 to regulate how such research should proceed. The public is invited to voice comments and concerns before the regulations become administrative law.
While patient-advocacy groups, scientists and some legislators tout the benefits of embryo stem-cell research, others are concerned that amid the hype the NIH is misinterpreting the law limiting the use of human embryos for experiments while failing to so much as acknowledge that breakthroughs in adult stem-cell research may make the destruction of living embryos unnecessary. As Insight reported last summer, stem cells have the remarkable capacity to develop into most of the tissues and organs in the body (see "Give a Life, Take a Life," Aug. 16, 1999). The possible medical benefits for patients with chronic illness are staggering, as scientists search for new ways to ease suffering, prolong life and defy the aging process.
The problem comes when some scientists insist …