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Bush responds to Congress stem cell letter

17 May 2004
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 258

The Bush administration has responded to a letter sent from Congress members to the president earlier this month, which called for a relaxation of federal restrictions on embryonic stem cell (ES cell) research.

The letter, signed by 206 representatives, called for the president to change his policy, which has been in place since 9 August 2001, and prevents federal funds being used for ES cell research that would involve the destruction of embryos. Federal funding is limited to scientists for work on ES cell lines already in existence on 9 August 2001, which the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimated earlier this year to be a maximum of 23 of the 78 lines originally identified. The Congress members said that the policy has hindered the progress of research in the US.

Now, policy-makers have openly acknowledged that the ES cell policy may hamper American research. Dr Elias Zerhouni, director of the NIH, wrote a 'carefully worded' letter to Congress on Bush's request and with the White House's backing. In it, he 'reiterated the Bush administration's position', while also conceding that the availability of additional ES cell lines to federally funded US researchers could increase scientific progress. The letter stated: 'Although it is fair to say that from a purely scientific perspective more stem cell lines may well speed some areas of human embryonic stem cell research, the president's position is still predicated on his belief that taxpayer funds should not 'sanction or encourage further destruction of human embryos that have at least the potential for life''.

Last week, members of the US Senate also began to circulate a similar letter to that sent by Congress. According to the Washington Post, this petition has collected about 50 signatures so far. Meanwhile, in a public address to the graduation ceremony of Wisconsin's Concordia University last Friday, President Bush gave some hints as to the continuance of his stem cell policy when he called for the promotion of a 'culture of life' in the US. Although he made no specific mention of abortion or ES cell research, it was evident that he referred to both when he said 'A compassionate society shows a special concern for those at the beginning of life, those at the end of life and those who struggle in life with disabilities'. He added: 'Life is not just a tool or commodity or a means to other ends... Nothing good or just can be built on the destruction or suffering of others'.

Bush's Stem Cell Policy Reiterated, but Some See Shift
The Washington Post |  16 May 2004
NIH Director Restates Bush Administration Position on Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Says More Lines Could Speed Research
Kaiser Network |  17 May 2004
President Bush Calls for 'Culture of Life' in Concordia University Commencement Speech
Kaiser Network |  17 May 2004
Stem Cell Research on Course, Director Says
Los Angeles Times |  16 May 2004
19 July 2004 - by BioNews 
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced the creation of an embryonic stem cell bank and three centres of excellence for stem cells. The move comes amid increasing pressure from the scientific community against President Bush's stem cell policy, which limits the cell-lines available to federally-funded researchers. The...
16 June 2004 - by BioNews 
Despite calls from members of both political parties in the US House of Representatives and Senate, as well as celebrities and the Reagan family, President Bush has no plans to change his policy on human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. Recently, cross-party groups - 206 members of Congress and 58 from...
9 June 2004 - by BioNews 
Fifty-eight US Senators, from both political parties and representing a majority of the Senate, have sent a letter to President Bush, urging him to change his policy on embryonic stem (ES) cell research. Their action comes only a month after a similar letter to the president was signed by 206...
10 May 2004 - by BioNews 
Following a letter from Congress members to President Bush last week calling for changes in federal restrictions on embryonic stem (ES) cell research, the White House has announced that it will send a representative to a meeting with the lawmakers to discuss the issue. House of Representatives members Diane De...
10 May 2004 - by BioNews 
President Bush is facing mounting pressure to review his three-year old policy on human embryonic stem (ES) cell research. At a gala dinner held on Saturday night for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), Nancy Reagan, wife of the former US President Ronald Reagan, made a passionate speech imploring the...
29 April 2004 - by BioNews 
A letter signed by 206 cross-party members of the US House of Representatives has been sent to President Bush, asking him to change his policy on embryonic stem (ES) cell research. On 9 August 2001, the President issued an executive order limiting the availability of federal funds for ES cell...
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