Stem Cell Laws
The laws regarding stem cells vary greatly from country to country.
There are many variables that must be taken into account in all laws regarding stem cells; for example, legislators must consider where the stem cells are collected from, who produces funding, and what the definition of a human being is.
The United States acted preemptively in the development of a national stem cell policy. Under President Clinton in 1995, Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, an amendment to earlier legislation that prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from using appropriated funds for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death”.
The Bush administration has made several highly questionable decisions regarding stem cell research. His initial 2001 limitation of the stem cell sources that qualify for federal funding was portrayed as a clever political maneuver within the scientific community. His 2002 creation of a Council on Bioethics scientists regarded as a cautionary if slightly paranoid reaction to the sci-fi myths that encompass cloning and genetic engineering. And in 2004, Bush replaced two advocates of stem cell research on the council with three people who are less approving of stem cell research.
Many scientists thought that President Bush's August 11 th , 2001 announcement of new limitations on which stem cell lines qualified for federal funding was an attempt at pleasing the misinformed masses while at the same time not entirely writing off the possibility of medical advances. Federal funding was limited to “existing [embryonic] stem cell lines where the life and death decision has already been made”, while noting that researchers using alternative sources, such as umbilical cord blood, placentas, and adult and animal tissues, would still be eligible for government support. In using the phrase “life and death decision”, it is possible that Bush was playing on the emotions of anti-abortionists.
The Council on Bioethics is a 2002 creation of the Bush administration. The November 28 th Executive Order states that the main focus of the Council is to “advise the President on bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology.” The fact that Bush felt it necessary to create a new watchdog on bioethics is interesting, seeing as there are several well-established organizations that could just have easily taken on the cause, such as the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It should also be noted that, under Clause A of Section 3, eligible for placement on the council are theologists, a group highly discredited by most scientists.
By February of 2004, Bush was calling for the replacement of two council members: professor of ethics William May and biologist Elizabeth Blackburn. Ironically, both were strong advocates for stem cell research, removed due to their outspoken opposition to the removal of the ethics of research on human cells being removed from the consideration of the council. Leon Kass, on the other hand, is the chairman of the Council on Bioethics and is staunchly opposed to stem cell research, even going so far as to speak poorly of in vitro fertilization. He refers to many scientific processes with which he disagrees as the “wisdom of repugnance”, claiming that life-extending technologies discourage careful thought and valuable actions.
[Council on Bioethics]
Presidential council that serves to advise on all controversial biotechnology issues
[Department of Health and Human Services]
Cabinet whose goal is to protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services
Amendment to P.L. 104-99 that prohibits HHS from using appropriated funds for “research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death”
a rule or order issued by the executive branch (the president) that has the status of a law
[National Institutes of Health]
United States government organization
the study of moral and ethical choices faced in medical research and the treatment of patients, especially when the
[American Society for Bioethics and Humanities]
group of individuals and organizations that are interested in the morals of science and
one who studies a certain religion, or has formal training