Could Lifting Stem Cell Research Funding Ban Help Conservative Groups?

2009-03-10 |

With today’s announcement by President Obama to repeal former President Bush’s 2001 ban on funding of some aspects of stem cell research, the ability to move beyond the controversy of embryonic stem cell usage could have been boosted. While the executive order signed by Obama was interpreted as expected, largely along party lines, the possibility to stop using embryonic stem cells at some point in the future is really dependent upon gaining enough knowledge beforehand.

The debate on the use of embryonic stem cells bares some similarity with debates on animal testing in which some groups of the population become highly polarized on the issue. However, if we look at animal testing, it wasn’t until many animals had suffered that the scientific community had enough information to have options other than animal testing for some of their research activities. On the other hand, the continued use of animals in inappropriate areas where other options exist may suggest another parallel to the use of embryonic stem cells in which these types of cells continue to be used where other options are available.

While “slippery-slope” arguments are generally only good in parables and fables for children, there is a legitimate concern by those opposed to embryonic stem cell research that the ethically divisive use of these cells will continue indefinitely because it suites the scientific community. It would be nice to think that the use of stem cells derived from the patients themselves would be the final objective, but with so many interests involved it is hard to see all these parties focusing on the same goal.

Considering that this debate will continue and has no universally right or wrong answer in of itself, the one indisputable result of stem cell usage is the continually growing list of treatment possibilities for a whole host of medical conditions. Whether it be the actual application of stem cells to treat Crohn’s disease or intriguing research and clinical trials suggesting hope for Multiple Sclerosis, strokes and Parkinson’s disease, there is no shortage of new and hopeful stem cell news.

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