Last night, President George W. Bush announced (video) that he favors federal funds supporting embryonic stem-cell research—but with specific limits and where the "life and death decision has already been made."
Bush drew a line in the sand saying that federally supported embryonic stem-cell studies will be restricted to stem cells harvested from over 60 existing genetically diverse stem-cell lines. Derived from already destroyed embryos, these cell colonies can regenerate themselves indefinitely.
In order to monitor stem-cell research, Bush is creating a president's council of leading scientists, doctors, ethicists, lawyers, and theologians. Dr. Leon Kass, a biomedical ethicist from the University of Chicago, will lead the council.
Kass has conservative credentials (including writing for First Things and being a Brady Fellow at The American Enterprise Institute) and a well-rounded resume (he's a medical ethicist, a surgeon, and a Ph.D. in biochemistry). Currently the Addie Clark Harding Professor in the Committee on Social Thought and the College of the University of Chicago, Kass is a graduate of the University of Chicago School of Medicine.
He has established himself lately in the fight against human cloning with a book and several articles. A recent Kass essay, Moral Meaning of Genetic Technology, sets the context for the embryonic stem-cell debate.
Bush's decision was a careful step into the fray. In his compromise, he found a way to allow scientific exploration to continue while still making an ethical stand. But people on both sides feel he gave too much ground.
Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics is "greatly disappointed in President Bush's misguided decision ...1
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