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Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research The research of stem cells was started not so long ago, in 1998, when Dr. James A. Thomson, a biologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison made his discovery of stem cells possibilities. As stem cells can develop into actually any kind of human cells, from skin cells to blood cells, that is they can produce any cells for various organs of human body, heart, brain or liver tissue etc, this discovery offers great hope for disease treatment and new ways of approaching various health related problems. Stem cells have not only this quality, they also are self-productive, once stem cells are isolated from the source, they can replicate indefinitely, creating so-called cell lines. (AAAS Policy Brief, 2004) Usually stem cells are obtained from two sources and according to them, cells are divided into two basic groups embryonic stem cells (which are obtained either from aborted fetuses or left over fertilized eggs in the process of IVF, in vitro fertilization) and adult stem cells (these are obtained from blood or bone marrow of adult people). The former is considered to be the best as these stem cells can develop cells for practically any tissue in human body, while adult stem cells are specific to certain cell types, as for example, muscle, skin or blood. (Stem Cell Research, 2004).
Usually, stem cell research refers to exploring of embryonic stem cells possibilities as the most promising and with the most potential in science as well as medicine. However, discovering and reaching this potential is not an easy task and apart from research complexities, there are also ethical and moral viewpoints to be taken into consideration. As any new undertaking, especially, such a sensitive one, stem cell research created and still does, a lot of controversy. Both, those who support it and those who oppose it, can be very well understood.
Some people consider stem cell research unethical as the most productive and effective stem cells are taken from embryos of 5 - 7 days old. These people point that even at this stage this is a human being and destroying embryos in order to obtain stem cells is inhuman and can be compared to actual killing. But at the same time, there are scientists, researches, doctors and patients who look at stem cell research as the way of giving them answers to peoples health problems. The research that has already been conducted shows that stem cells provide almost unlimited possibilities in treatment of human diseases and can save a lot of lives and to investigate these possibilities is the most crucial task of modern medicine and science. Without financial support from the government the research cannot continue on the scale that will be effective, thats why federal funding is so important.
As George Bush points out in his address to the nation on stem cell research on 9 th of August 2001, Scientists believe that rapid progress in this research will come only with federal funds. Federal dollars help attract the best and brightest scientists. They ensure new discoveries are widely shared at the largest number of research facilities and that the research is directed toward the greatest public good. (Bush, 2001) Points of view of both opponents as well as proponents of stem cell research are easily understandable and I think, any one can relate to one or another. But finding a solution that will pacify the worries of both parties and will show that the importance of both views is taken into consideration is, in my opinion, a remarkable job. That is what President Bush has done when he presented his remarks on this issue on August 9, 2001. In his speech about stem cell research Bush addressed the problem and controversy related to it, having announced his decision to provide federal funding to embryonic stem cell research in order for it to go forward but limited it to be conducted only on stem cells that are already existing.
He says, as a result of private research, more than 60 genetically diverse stem cell lines already exist. They were created from embryos that have already been destroyed, and they have the ability to regenerate themselves indefinitely, creating ongoing opportunities for research. I have concluded that we should allow federal funds to be used for research on these existing stem cell lines, where the life and death decision has already been made. (Bush, 2001) The President underlines that it is permissible to research an already existing cell line, as an embryo has already been destroyed, but in no way does he support the research on any cell line which will be created in future so as to ensure that the federal government doesnt encourage the creation and destruction of new human embryos for scientific purposed. Naturally there were mixed reactions to the Presidents decision. Some people who oppose stem cell research appreciated the decision to limit it to cell lines already in existence, while others were dissatisfied with such solution pressing the point that there shouldnt be any federal encouragement for such research whatsoever, under any circumstances. Meanwhile, the majority of supporters of stem cell research, were happy with Bush's decision to allow the research to continue, but some advocates of this approach still criticized the limitation of it to already existing cell lines, doubting the effectiveness of such a strict restriction on promising stem cell exploration.
The Presidents decision is based on information provided by National Institutes of Health (NIH) that there are 64 existing cell lines at present worldwide (this information varies, the president in his remarks indicated 60 cell lines, later some sources corrected the number to be 64, or even 78). Earlier, many scientists thought this number to be much lower and even now a lot of researchers express their doubts about how many out of these 64 stem cell lines can be really used and produce effective results. During his speech President Bush also announced the formation of Presidents council to monitor stem cell research, to recommend appropriate guidelines and regulations, and to consider all of the medical and ethical ramifications of biomedical innovation (Bush, 2001). It will be chaired by Dr.
Leon Kass, a bioethicist from the University of Chicago. The Council will not only study various ethical and moral issues in both biomedical as well behavioral sciences, but also will oversee all stem cell research that is federally funded by the US government. (AAAS Policy Brief, 2004) I think Bush has done a good compromise. He catered to the views of those opposing all kinds of stem cell research ensuring that no embryos will be destroyed for the sake of this research alone, at the same time taming the advocates of exploring stem cell possibilities giving them a chance to study already existing stem cell lines. He found a perfect middle ground and although its not possible to satisfy every one, Bush has done a good job listening to and taking into consideration the opinions of both parties. Therefore I believe, this his decision is the most wise one as it allows the medical research to go on supporting it with the federal funding, all along taking care that no ethical limits are crossed and no fundamental values are threatened and sanctity of human life is preserved.
Let me further dwell on why I strongly agree with president Bush and support his solution to the controversy. The President in his remarks on stem cell research underlines the importance of the issue and sums up his decision as the answer to two questions First, are these frozen embryos human life, and therefore, something precious to be protected? And second, if theyre going to be destroyed anyway, shouldnt they be used for a greater good, for research that has the potential to save and improve other lives? (Bush, 2001). As President Bush is set on taking care of stem cell research without crossing the fundamental ethical and moral limits, he provided taxpayer funding only to that part of on-going research that will not threaten the sanctity of human life and encourage the destruction of especially created for the research human embryos. So his decision is based on profound ethical grounds. Secretary Thompson comments on it this way, the Presidents policy rests on this significant principle no taxpayer funding for embryo destruction.
Even as the science develops, this principle does not change, neither unexpected scientific breakthroughs nor unanticipated research problems would cause the President to reverse this policy. (Fact Sheet. Embryonic Stem Cell Research, 2004). The President supports and appreciates this ethical principle according to which human embryos are considered to be a form of human life and therefore should be respected and protected as such. As Bush says in his speech, research on embryonic stem cells raises profound ethical questions, because extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo, and thus destroys its potential for life (Bush, 2001). Such moral treatment of human embryos draws support to his decision not only from various religious groups, but also ensures bipartisan support from the US Congress, which has stated that no federal funds should be used to promote destruction of human embryos. This point of view is shared internationally too; many European countries banned practices used to obtain stem cells from human embryos altogether.
So George W. Bush's decision on stem cell research is based on sound moral and ethical background, is supported by both parties of the US Congress as well as internationally. (Fact Sheet. Embryonic Stem Cell Research, 2004) However, research offers hope that millions of our loved ones may be cured of a disease and rid of their suffering (Bush, 2001). Although stem cell discovery and exploring of its possibilities does create lot of ethical hazards, it also does give hope and opportunities for enormous medical and scientific breakthroughs. This is also taken into consideration by the president when making his crucial decision about whether or not to provide federal funding to the research, whether or not encourage the scientific progress and if yes, then to what degree. In his remarks, Bush makes his point clear that he realizes the pain of people and their families who suffer because of the illness of a close and loved one.
Thats why he stays committed to exploring fully the potential and promise of stem cell research, at the same time showing respect to all forms of human life and without violating moral and ethical principles. The President put it this way, Leading scientists tell me research on these 60 lines has great promise that could lead to breakthrough therapies and cures. This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research without crossing a fundamental moral line, by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life (Bush, 2001). So federal funding of embryonic stem cell lines research is in sync with the Presidents principles of the fundamental sanctity and value of human life. His solution to controversy related to this issue shows his utmost commitment to respecting and preserving the value of human life and his support in promoting the possibilities of modern science and medicine. Bush's decision provides federal funding to stem cell research that can use around 60 stem cell lines, already in existence, that is those that have already been obtained from human embryos, but the President will not allow or support or encourage the destruction of new human embryos in the future.
Bush underlines that the stem cell lines available for research are already obtained from embryos and the latter are already destroyed and have no longer any possibility to develop as human beings. So providing federal funding to scientific research of existing cell lines will help promote the value of life without violating moral grounds, as well as give an opportunity for researchers to explore the possibilities and potential of stem cells to benefit millions of people who suffer from various life destroying health problems. (Fact Sheet. Embryonic Stem Cell Research, 2001). So, in my opinion, the decision made by President Bush, is the most thought-over and the most considerate one. I believe in this solution being beneficial to lives of many people and having positive long-lasting effects in the sphere of science and medicine. Reference list: AAAS Policy Brief: Stem Cell Research.
August 26, 2004 (web) Fact Sheet. Embryonic Stem Cell Research. HHS Press Office. July 14, 2004 (web) Fact Sheet. Embryonic Stem Cell Research.
Office of the Press Secretary. August 9, 2001 (web) Health Scout. Stem Cell Research. 2004 (web) Remarks by the President on Stem Cell Research. Office of the Press Secretary. August 9, 2001 (web)
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Research essay sample on Federal Funding For Stem Cell Research