It has been almost a decade since the first embryonic stem cells were isolated. Since that time, stem cell research has remained an extremely high profile scientific endeavour. It has been the focus of ongoing media scrutiny, regulatory oversight and intense ethical debate. In the midst of this controversy, the Canadian scientific community has continued to work. Incremental advances have materialized and the possibility of future clinical applications remains real.
Given this research activity, the public investment and the persistence of ethical concern, our Stem Cell Network research team felt it essential to explore the most pressing research ethics challenges and provide practical recommendations on how best to move forward. To this end, topics of inquiry were selected after interviewing a broad range of relevant Canadian stakeholders. (1) We then commissioned a paper on each of the selected topics, with the goal of informing our policy deliberations. These papers were presented at a February 2007 interdisciplinary workshop in Montreal, an event that led to the recent publication of a paper entitled "Stem Cell Research Ethics: Consensus Statement on Emerging Issues." (2)
The articles in this issue of the Health Law Review are modified versions of the workshop background papers. Given that they incorporate the comments and suggestions that emerged at the workshop and throughout the entire deliberative process, I believe they should serve as a wonderful and enduring resource. Indeed, I would like to thank all of the authors for their outstanding contributions, not only in the form of these papers, but in the discussions that led to our consensus paper. These papers cover a tremendous amount of territory relevant to stem cell research policy, including an analysis of public perceptions and attitudes, the development of a clinical trial registry for stem cell therapies, conflicts of interest and consent issues, and governance strategies.
I would like to extend my appreciation to all of the workshop participants--an incredible group of renowned academics and policy makers. I would also like to thank the Stem Cell Network for their continued funding support and Ubaka Ogbogu for his wonderful leadership of this initiative.
Michael E. Enzle
Michael was a gentle giant who lived the ethics he espoused, respecting every person and his or her opinion while ensuring that significant academic and policy work in the area of stem cell research ethics moved forward, as evidenced by his contribution in this volume.
Given his profound impact on the Canadian scene, it seems appropriate to dedicate this volume of the Health Law Review to Michael--an individual of remarkable character with an intellect and disposition ideally suited to the discipline of ethics. …