Stem cell research

The Bush administration’s restrictions on federal funds for embryonic stem cell research are so potentially damaging to medicine that they are encountering opposition even among the administration’s own supporters. The latest sign of conservative misgivings came at a fund-raising gala sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, when Nancy Reagan made a public plea for support of stem cell research.

What has driven even anguished conservatives to back stem cell research is the plight of patients who suffer from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, spinal cord injuries and other health problems that stem cell research may someday alleviate. Although many right-to-lifers consider it immoral to destroy an embryo, those arguments begin to look abstract when posed against the suffering of patients.

Under the Bush policy, federal funds can be used for research only on embryonic stem cell lines that existed as of August 9, 2001, the date the policy was announced. Critics say that only about 15 such lines are currently available to researchers, to allow the field to advance quickly. It seems reasonable for Bush to expand his policy, as the House members want, to let federally financed scientists work on stem cell lines. — The New York Times