Magazine article Conscience

Senators, Members of Congress and Former First Lady Decry Stem Cell Policy

Magazine article Conscience

Senators, Members of Congress and Former First Lady Decry Stem Cell Policy

Article excerpt

FIFTY-EIGHT US SENATORS, 206 members of Congress and former first lady Nancy Reagan have called on President Bush to loosen his restrictions on research using stem cells derived from human embryos. The calls followed the long-awaited release of a report from the US President's Council on Bioethics, "Reproduction and Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies."

Currently, federal funds are limited to scientists working on stem cells in existence on August 9, 2001, when Bush announced the new policy. The National Institutes of Health estimates that as few as 23 of the 78 lines originally identified can be used, and many of those are contaminated by mouse cells and therefore cannot be used on humans. New Jersey and California have provided state funds for research into stem cells.

Just before the death of former president Ronald Reagan on June 5, 2004, his wife Nancy made a passionate call for President Bush to change his policy at a dinner for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. President Reagan suffered from Alzheimer's disease, one of many degenerative conditions that might be treated using new therapies developed through research on embryonic stem cells.

The Council on Bioethics' report was wide-ranging and proposes, inter alia, that "attempts to conceive a child by any means other than the union of egg and sperm" should be prohibited. An addendum from five Council members makes the point that "we believe that this language provides a way for Congress to ban reproductive cloning while agreeing to disagree on the question of cloning for biomedical research. …

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