Monday, April 20, 2009
By limiting federal funding to research on stem cells derived from embryos that were created for reproductive purposes and that were slated for disposal, the National Institutes of Health's draft guidelines, issued yesterday, offer an intelligent solution to an issue that demanded great sensitivity. While a decision with such deep moral and ethical considerations shouldn't have been left to scientists alone, the NIH outcome is a good one.
President Obama issued an executive order last month that lifted the ban on federal funding of research on stem cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001, and he instructed the NIH to develop guidelines for the research. Because stem cells can be transformed into different kinds of cells, scientists (and quite a few hopeful patients and their loved ones) believe them to hold the key to cures for a host of debilitating diseases and conditions, such as Parkinson's. But because stem cell lines are grown from human embryos, many people have ethical or religious objections to their use. President George W. Bush proposed a compromise that limited federal funding to a set of existing stem cell lines. But they proved too few, limiting potential research.