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Bush is cautious over stem cells

13 August 2001
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 120

After much anticipation, President George W Bush has made public his decision on the federal funding of embryo stem cell research. Talking from his home in Texas, Bush said that he would not allow federal funds for deriving stem cells from embryos or for using embryo stem cells newly derived in the private sector. But, he said, he would allow research on a number of stem cell lines that are already in existence.

According to the president, 60 stem cells lines are currently in existence, although this figure is doubted by some stem cell researchers. For Bush, research on these cell lines is permissible because 'the life-and-death decision has already been made'. He was keen to avoid 'crossing a fundamental moral line by providing taxpayer funding that would sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos'.

The president also announced that he intends to set up a council, chaired by conservative bioethicist Leon Kass, designed to monitor stem cell research and recommend appropriate guidelines. In the meantime, the National Institutes of Health has already started a registry which will eventually list the existing stem cell lines that federally funded researchers will be allowed to use. Officials say the funds will be available from early next year.

Although Bush's intention was to please as many as possible, it seems that he has ended up satisfying few. Stem cell advocates welcomed the decision, but voiced concern about how useful the stem cell lines would prove. Michael J Fox, himself a Parkinson's disease sufferer, said 'Mr Bush has definitely given us clearance to go - but we don't know if he's given us enough fuel'.

Meanwhile, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops described the decision as 'morally unacceptable'.

Bush backs federal funding for some stem cell research
The New York Times |  10 August 2001
Bush stem cell move widely welcomed
BBC News Online |  10 August 2001
Stem cell decision tests Bush support
The Times |  11 August 2001
Text: Bush's address on stem cell research
The New York Times |  10 August 2001
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