Academic journal article Houston Journal of International Law

Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Will President Bush's Limitation on Federal Funding Put the United States at a Disadvantage? A Comparison between U.S. and International Law

Academic journal article Houston Journal of International Law

Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Will President Bush's Limitation on Federal Funding Put the United States at a Disadvantage? A Comparison between U.S. and International Law

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

In an age where technological and medical advances are developing at exponential rates, the law may shape or follow advances. (1) Embryonic stem cell research is one rapidly emerging area in which the law may shape or follow advances. (2) Although the use of fetal tissue for medical research is not a new idea, (3) recent discoveries and advances, such as human genome mapping and human cloning, have forced most developed nations to re-evaluate their laws on genetic testing. (4) Each nation's scientific community must wait for approval, guidance, or funding to continue genetic research. (5) The wait is not a silent one, however, as an international debate over biotechnology regulation and morality rages. (6)

In the United States, the legal status of the human embryo has been a widely debated and highly political topic since the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade. (7) In Roe, the Court held that a woman had the right to terminate her pregnancy in the first trimester based on a fundamental privacy right, (8) Roe dealt with the embryo in the context of abortion. (9) Outside the abortion context, the Supreme Court has not prevented the government from protecting embryos. (10) Thirty years after Roe, the legal status of the embryo remains unclear. (11) The issue of embryonic stem cell research has become so hotly contested and politically important that President George W. Bush discussed it in his first prime-time presidential address on August 17, 2001. (12) The presidential address and President Bush's later decision to modify existing policy on embryonic research evoked debate among key players on both sides of the issue. (13) Many conservatives who advocate a total funding ban, such as the Catholic Church and anti-abortion groups, have accused President Bush of breaking his campaign promise to prohibit federal funding of research involving the destruction of living embryos. (14) Taking another view, some scientists, citizens, and lawmakers supported Democratic efforts to reverse President Bush's decision and make embryonic stem cells more available for research. (15) Scientists fear that limitations on federal funding will keep them from realizing the huge potential of stem cell research. (16)

This Comment examines the current laws regulating stem cell research, both in the United States and internationally, and how disparities between nations' laws affect relevant technological, scientific, and medical developments. Part II provides a brief overview of stem cell research science, discusses the beneficial uses of the research, and explores the ethical debate surrounding the issue. Part III examines the current laws pertaining to genetic research in the United States, considering President Bush's decision regarding federal funding, and compares U.S. laws to those of other countries, including China, Japan, Germany, Australia, Great Britain, and Israel. Part IV considers the effects of disparities among the laws of the various nations, focusing particularly on the effects of President Bush's decision to limit federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. This Comment's conclusion is that the United States will be seriously disadvantaged, technologically and economically, if its laws fail to allow and encourage U.S. scientists to fully explore the potential of stem cell research.

II. THE SCIENCE OF STEM CELL RESEARCH

A. What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells have been called "the essence of an embryo." (17) They are biological building blocks that serve as the common ancestry of all 210 different kinds of tissue in the human body. (18) Stem cells grow and specialize to form the heart, skin, and other organs. (19) "Cell lines" are derived by removing cells from a body, then isolating and culturing them on a medium. (20) They are called cell lines because they "come from, and give rise to, other cells along a similar hereditary lineage." (21) Creating cell lines has become something of an art form because it is relatively difficult to develop and grow them in a laboratory from human cell samples. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.