Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Our view on medical research: Embryonic stem cell ruling puts the onus on Congress

USA Today
August 25, 2010

For people suffering from diabetes, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's disease and other afflictions that resist traditional therapies, Monday's legal decision barring federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is deeply disappointing.

Disappointing, but likely legally correct. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth cited an amendment Congress passed in 1996 that bars any research using cells that come from the destruction of human embryos. That law, Lamberth ruled, trumps an executive order President Obama issued last year aimed at jump-starting research.

The government said Tuesday it would appeal the ruling, but the best and fastest way to ensure that federal funding continues is for Congress to approve it without delay.

The politics and ethics would, of course, be easier if the cells could be harvested without destroying embryos, or if adult stem cells could be used instead, a subject of aggressive research. But for now, the embryos are the only source of the stem cells scientists consider so enormously promising.