|You are in: Talking Point|
Thursday, 16 August, 2001, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Stem cell research: The right decision?
Select the link below to watch the edition of Talking Point On Air dedicated to this issue:
President George W Bush has approved federal funding for limited medical research on stem cells extracted from human embryos.
Mr Bush said he had decided in favour of funding because of the potential for new cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Many scientists say the move does not go far enough because it limits the research to existing stem cell tissues from embryos, created for research purposes, which have already been destroyed. But it excludes the creation or cloning of any human embryos for research purposes.
Conservatives have condemned President Bush's decision as "morally unacceptable", saying it can lead to "a disrespect for human life."
Do you think research on stem cells from human embryos should be banned altogether? Or should it go further?
We discussed stem cell research and human cloning in this week's Talking Point phone-in programme broadcast on BBC World Service Radio and on BBC News Online. If you would like to add to the debate, please use the form at the bottom of the page.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I think President Bush has made the right decision to fund the research. This is quite possibly one of the best things he could have done since becoming president. This type of research can only be good if it can help find cures for Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's.
Although there does need to be certain restrictions on the types of research done with this funding, I think the point is that the research is to be used to extend life and not genetically create or 'clone' it.
Stem cells of a human embryo belong to the embryo. He is the only being that has the full right to all his cells. It leaves no room for any of us to decide. We have adult stem cells as an alternative tool for research.
Shaun, Teignmouth, UK
It seems to me that the President has split the baby. The real ethical question here is this: Are those collections of cells human life? If they are, then any testing that necessitates their destruction is wrong and should not be funded with taxpayer money. If those cells do not constitute human life, then why limit the research at all? I don't think this announcement cleared anything up.
President Bush made a step in the right direction with his decision to let federal money be used for research. While personally I didn't agree with limiting of which stem cells could be used, the ones they wanted to use will simply be trashed anyway. But having the government watch over the research is a good idea. As new discoveries are made, the public can be aware of the advances. Plus with having to answer to the government, the uses can be better controlled. Since this decision has fallen short of what many wanted, I wonder what will happen in other research. Will those who are wealthy band together to further private research? I am sure there are many not so wealthy private citizens who would join them in helping to fund research.
Though I agree that scientific research and development is key to improving life, I don't feel it should be at the expense of it. In my opinion, an embryo is a life. And that life should have rights like any other. Why can't we conduct this research using placentas, umbilical cords, and other means which do not tamper with nature? Hasn't history proven that Nature is more powerful than man? This decision may have severe consequences.
Azam Khan, Pakistan
I think that the whole fuss over stem cells/human cloning is much ado about nothing. Have we seen any concrete results from this research? Is there any clinical application for human cloning other than for fertility treatments? Does anyone believe that anyone who isn't incredibly wealthy is ever going to benefit from these treatments, when and if they ever arrive? We have over 40 million people in this country who have no health coverage at all! When are we going to stop paying attention to these non-issues and start focusing on real problems?
I find it rather chilling that adult stem cell research is being so consistently ignored. How many people know that adult stem cells are already used successfully on patients? In contrast, no one knows how to use early embryos to treat anyone at all. Add to that the fact that the embryo dies when his/her cells are extracted, and it becomes extraordinary that we are not investing exclusively in ethical alternatives.
Matthew, St Helens, Lancashire, UK
This was not a real decision - Bush drew an arbitrary line in the sand saying that the use of cells isolated before August 9th will be funded, but not the use of those isolated after this date. This date has no magical meaning other than the fact that it was the date he chose to make his speech. Why waste embryos that will eventually be destroyed anyway? What exactly do the people who are against this want us to do with all of the extra embryos from in vitro fertilisation? This was merely an attempt to appease constituents on both sides of the issue - he lacked the nerve to make a real decision either way. What a pity that politics will stand in the way of promising medical research.
George Bush has allowed the religious mumbo jumbo peddlers to slow down human progress. At least he hasn't stopped it completely. It's a small victory, I suppose.
I cannot believe that President Bush is doing this I appreciate what America is like it, is not like England, and I am sure many disabled people will benefit from the research, but cloning is disgusting and very dangerous. It is "morally unacceptable" - the government is completely right. Which makes a change!
Dave Adams, St. Louis/ USA
Religion has often tried to stand in the way of scientific progress, but fortunately science has managed to prevail. I wish the superstitious would stand aside and let man's ingenuity and genius march on.
Ken Follet's "The Third Twin" shows how a geneticist can possibly split an embryo into several equal parts, thus allowing different surrogates to give birth to single "twins".
I do not see anything wrong with using human embryos in stem cell research, provided that the egg donor consents to the use of the egg for this purpose.
I feel that the pharmaceutical industry is forcing the President of the US to make up his mind.
I think that people should think that cloning entails the production, rather than the creation, of a child. Each person involved his/herself in order to create a child naturally, but if a person can be reproduced through cloning, that self-surrender is lost, and there is the danger of self-idolisation.
Watching "Meet the press" on NBC, I understand that we are only talking about Federal funding and not private research. From this, I gather that private research can go on regardless so long as no tax dollars are used. So, those who can afford it may get treatments for their illnesses whilst Joe Public will not. One has to ask if this possibility exists, why not use it?
I wonder...When can see actual outcome of cloning or stem cell technology? When we can have health fund that covers them? When will this technology will be affordable? And when will we see the benefits getting into these people in developing countries as well as developed countries?
This decision has been made on purely commercial grounds. Unless Bush had allowed research to continue (not to commence, as some mistakenly believe) the companies carrying out the developments of therapies would have relocated overseas, along with the skills, and the US would have lost the race.
As a disabled person I was elated to hear the president had agreed to research, although limited, into stem cell technology. Sadly, a group of people who do not stand to benefit from the technology are holding it back, as per usual due to ethical and moral dilemmas as well as the ever present fear of the abuse of science. This is not to say that people cannot have morals but if these people were to understand the pain that some people go through, to experience it first hand, they may reconsider their stance.
I think Bush has proved that he can be a compassionate conservative. I am also happy that he has moved from right to the centre. It will go long way in history to find cure for these diseases. It is time to accept the intellect side of Bush.
In face of mounting evidence, Bush had little choice but to come up with a less controversial compromise. The real surprise was the number embryonic stem cell lines available (60-plus); most experts in the field had expected around a dozen or so. Like any compromise, this decision also leaves all sides less than satisfied. The fact GW used this as the subject for his first national address Thursday, for his weekly radio broadcast and even an op-ed article in the New York Times (Sunday) shows how serious this issue has been to this administration with strong conservative agenda.
If we all listened to the moral and religious raconteurs, the earth would be flat, the mentally ill would be in league with the devil, evolution of species would be impossible, and we would probably still be living in caves thinking that fire was the greatest gift powerful gods of the storms had bestowed upon us. Religion always tries to hold back the advance of knowledge too much. That said, some controls need to be in place, so President Bush may have struck the happiest medium possible in this controversial area of research.
President Bush has got it right. If you don't do this research you are condemming many vulnerable people to an early and unpleasant death.
Stopping research would be just another form of playing God, and is itself both wicked and unenforceable.
I think Bush has taken an important lead in this issue, and a courageous one in view of opposition from some of his own conservative colleagues. Thank goodness he's turned to logic rather than emotive beliefs.
Life is a continuous process of growth and development from the moment of conception; it is no more proper to suggest that life begins at birth than it is to suggest that life begins at puberty.
The value of a life should never vary based on age, size or ability to function independently. The embryo, and the incoherent Alzheimer's patient are equally worthy of society's care and protection.
Why do we travel to other worlds in the frantic search for signs of life, when we destroy it so freely in our own?
Advances in adult stem cell research, genetics and other technologies mean that there is no need to use stem cells from human embryos. Bush has unnecessarily supported embryo abuse and risks tarnishing genuine ethical research. There is a greater public interest in delivering ethical cures, rather then presenting the ill with the horrendous dilemma of whether or not to use a treatment that depended on the destruction of another human life.
This is ungodly and extremely wicked. This kind of research should be banned otherwise we will all degenerate into an immoral and blasphemous society awaiting God's wrath.
Alastair Jefferson, Bolton, UK
It is to me the inevitable march of 'progress'. It does not make it morally correct but so often in the past science has pushed forward the moral boundaries. Bush is the front man but the people pulling the strings should be the ones that are answerable.
It does seem a tad predictable for Bush to announce this only AFTER he went to visit the Pope, where his words on stem cell policy were, to say the least, woolly. Of course there is a huge moral question at stake, and whatever decision he takes will be seen as wrong by a majority of people, but his pussy-footing seems to denote, and not for the first time, a lack of vision. However, a little bit of sympathy must go out to him: he is on a hiding to nothing whatever he does - it's not a chest-beating exercise like the plane in China and it's never going to win him any friends.
Tony Martin, San Francisco Bay Area, USA
I think the society will not be able to block the research in this area much longer, so it is a matter of setting up the proper guidelines which ensure that we won't fall upon something dangerous.
I believe that stem cell research is necessary to the proper advancement of scientific knowledge. Admittedly, as a biologist I have a somewhat biased perspective, but I do not believe that it is right for any prevailing morality to dictate the direction and limitations of research. Politicians must play to the masses to ensure their political survival, but it is the responsibility of scientists to advance knowledge allowing a greater survival, due to increased understanding of biology. Failure to find cures and treatments for terminal diseases leads to condemnation of scientists by politicians and the public, when it is their blinkered morality which prevents advance.
I feel that anybody who is opposed to such research is living in a fantasy world where medical conditions such as Alzheimer's do not exist. For the rest us we have to put up with our friends, family and even ourselves suffering from these terrible problems. How dare anyone stand in the way of medical progress on the grounds on religious or ill-informed moral beliefs. I say to these people "welcome to the 21st century!"
Bob, Oxford, UK
I think that Bush made an uncharacteristically intelligent decision in allowing stem cell research to continue, albeit restrictive though it is. Whether the turnaround was caused by a self-achieved realisation of the crucial importance of stem cell research to the continuing evolution of such a profoundly important branch of science (and medicine), or whether he bowed to pressure from a scientifically-minded majority of constituents (above or below board!), I think the result bodes well for the acceptance and eventual success of a science that is considered by the informed community to be hugely important. I think that stem cell research, whilst having the potential to uncover vast amounts of critical information, must be slowed down (I refrain from using the word restricted) to ensure that the scientific community can marry (or fuse, whichever your ethical disposition) the passion for knowledge with a respect for life.
Stem cell research is a very important area of medical research and has a great potential to produce effective treatment for many terrible diseases. I think Bush's decision to fund the research in a limited capacity was a very politically intelligent move, he has managed to keep the majority of groups involved, both pro and anti stem cell, happy. It is my hope though that he increases the funding. in the long run the benefits will be enormous
This conflict is the same (millennia) old conflict between science and religion. The division is clear. Science stands to benefit much from this research (even if the research is fruitless), while religion was pushed yet further out of the decision making circle. Bush is extending government support for the research, but he never had the power to ban it. If the research is fruitful, we may discover the fountain of youth. That will create the real social-political dilemmas.
D.L. Anderson, Kansas City, MO, USA
For once, Bush has made the right decision. It is infuriating that conservatives who cite moral and religious grounds would probably be the first people to rally against homosexuals, single parents or in extreme cases, religions other than their own. Their views on the sanctity of life only apply when it suits them, and as long as the technology isn't abused and is correctly monitored their scaremongering should not be allowed to even enter into the debate.
"Morally Unacceptable"? This, coming from a country where you can buy a gun before you can have sex??
10 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Bush backs stem cell research
10 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
What are stem cells?
10 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Bush's stem cell decision: Full text
10 Aug 01 | Business
Companies cheer Bush stem cell move
23 Jul 01 | Europe
Pope warns Bush on stem cells
01 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Japan set to embrace stem cell research
12 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Row over made-to-order stem cells
17 Feb 01 | San Francisco
Stem cell hope for Parkinson's
07 Sep 00 | Festival of science
Stem cell injection for stroke on the way
19 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Stem cells promise liver repair
02 May 01 | Sci/Tech
Stem cells grown from dead bodies
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy