The Center for American Progress (CAP) has a perfectly encapsulated post up today, written by Senior Fellow Rick Weiss, that addresses a crystal clear, new agenda for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
President-Elect Obama has an opportunity to cleanse the federal government of far too many ideological, non-scientifically based restrictions placed upon science by President Bush over the last eight years. These restrictions have reared their ugly head in many ways but one critically affected area has been federal funding for furthering scientific, medical research; in particular related to the potential of embryonic stem cells to aid in the cures of some chronic and fatal diseases affecting so many of us, our friends and family. It’s an area in which rebirth of common sense is possible and likely.
Within the first week of taking office, President Obama should call upon the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health to devise a plan for dismantling the current, overly restrictive Bush administration policy on the funding of human embryonic stem cell research. He should do so through an executive order or presidential memorandum.
Then Weiss lays out those restrictions that any HHS/NIH regulations should encompass:
- The cells must have been derived from embryos produced for reproductive purposes.
- Those embryos must have been deemed in excess of medical need, were no longer being considered for transfer to a womb ,and were slated for destruction.
- The embryos were freely donated by both of the adults who contributed genetic material to create them, as evidenced by proper written informed consent.
- No financial inducements were offered to donors, and the donors expressed through an informed consent process their understanding that any resulting cell lines will be used for research and not for the development of therapeutic benefits for the donors.
- All federally funded research on human embryonic stem cells must be conducted under the review of a Stem Cell Research Oversight committee that adheres to the standards put forth in the guidelines of either the National Academies or the International Society for Stem Cell Research.
All of these restrictions ensure that all ethical considerations are taken into account, in particular that embryos are not created solely for research purposes nor harmed or destroyed in the research process beyond what is allowed, under law, on fetuses in utero.
Finally, Weiss notes, that the Center for American Progress calls upon the 111th Congress to codify these NIH/HHS regulations into law so that they are not subjected to the whim of a presidential administration (especially one as anti-science as the Bush administration has historically been):
The legislation should provide broad, principled, ethical standards so that the science can evolve in the direction that experimentation and evidence takes it—subject always to policy details promulgated by HHS/NIH.