History of Stem Cell Research Legislation
Stem cell research is a study on human embryonic stem cells conducted by USA researchers in the 1960s. This resulted in several complaints being filed concerning the research. In return, many questions emerged about these cells by the researchers. In 1968, they achieved a major breakthrough where patients with immunodeficiency disorders were treated and with this achievement, stem cell research secured massive public support among Americans. They advocated for more funds from the government.
In 1994 president, Bill Clinton prohibited federal government funding towards this research. In 1998, an opinion by a state legal counsel stated that because the researchers had successfully isolated human embryonic cells and managed to grow them into specialized cells, the earlier issued ban was not applicable.
This is because the cells involved in that study were not of human nature according to statutory definition (Ball 2012). In December 1999, guidelines to this research were published and an oversight committee was established. In August 2000, final guidelines were issued and government funding restored to a condition that the study would only use the cells that had been derived before the ban.
In 2001, the issue of stem cell research and cell research legislation became a high-profile political issue and President Bush banned government spending in support of a project on harvesting cells from fertilized embryos arguing that it destroyed human life and therefore had to be avoided. Later during the year, a bill was passed overturning the earlier issued ban but this bill was vetoed. The president signed the bill authorizing research creation of stem cells lines without involving fertilizing embryos in 2001. This act allowed federal funding of this research but prohibited human cloning (Freckelton & Petersen 2006).
Stem Cell Legislation in Other Countries
Just like in America, other countries in the world view stem cells research as a huge milestone towards treatment and understanding medical mysteries, more so the ones that are genetic in nature. In Australia and China, similar studies have been ongoing and just like in America; the cells involved in this study are only derived through in-vitro fertilization and with informed authority from the donors.
Legislations from different countries portray a general acceptance that the cells used for these studies cannot be from embryos fertilized within the human body and that no embryo can be created for stem cell research purposes (Capps and Campbell 2010). To add to this, in all the enactments, the issue of funding the studies is paramount and all the regulatory authorities support public financing and appropriate project monitoring and regulation.
Current Legislative State on Stem Cell
Present-day America seems to have embraced stem cell research and its progress has received more support from both the researchers and the government. In 2009, the government lifted the barriers to these studies through a president’s executive order. This move allowed sufficient government funding for the research as well as clearing all the restrictions that existed due to ideological differences.
The research has full support from the government through some parts of it could still be denied public financing. The order further requires a review of the guidelines on the research. The newly issued guidelines dictate that for the study to qualify for public funding it had to be using the cells derived from human blastocyst obtained from consenting donors seeking reproductive treatment. (Carey 2012).
Future of Stem Cell Legislation
Ideally, in the future, the scientific study on human cells should be allowed with no restrictions whatsoever. Various studies have shown that stem cell technology is paramount in treating and even curing diseases that have in the past been considered incurable. In the case of diseases such as cancer and some birth-related conditions and defects, it has been observed that with advanced knowledge on human cell transformation and differentiation, it is possible to prevent and even treat such developmental challenges.
For pharmaceutical and drugs development processes purposes, the stem cells can be used in testing for the medical fitness of these substances instead of using animals or even real human beings. An example would be that of a cancer cell created to test anti-tumor substances.
In recent times, organ transplant has been a common practice in the medical field. However, this is proving to be technical, particularly when the organ that has been donated is required to be compatible with the donor. Furthermore, the number of those who require organ transplants is much higher when compared to the number of potential donors.
As a result, many patients may succumb to death before a perfect match for their requirements is found. If by any chance, the available technology can direct stem cells to mutate into specific cell types, such cells could be a scientific breakthrough that can be used as a perfect replacement for organ transfer technology. This can also be used to correct genetic misalignments that may arise before birth through the introduction of normal and healthy cells.
According to Kristina and Hermerén 2011, stem cell research financing might appear to be costly, particularly when no immediate application of its findings is done. It might however prove to be very economical in the long run. In North America, sepsis has been identified as a major cause of mortality to patients in the intensive care unit and billions of dollars have been used to cub this challenge.
Dr. Duncan Stewart of the Ottawa hospital research institute laments that Stem cells found in bone marrow can be used to help in the treatment of sepsis and enhancement of the immune system as well as to repair worn-out tissues. With advanced knowledge of stem cells, medics can now use them to handle some of the clinical challenges and eventually reduce the overall cost of medication.
The issue of ethics remains a serious challenge in this study. Though the political and religious ideologies of all stakeholders ought to be respected, some caution should be exercised with a view of eliminating chances of foregoing major clinical breakthroughs. The government may want to avoid the use of cells derived from oocytes fertilized within a woman’s body.
However, cases of spontaneous termination of the normal and natural embryo development process should be exempted from the general rule. They should allow the study of the resulting cells in order to gain insight in regards to any variance that may arise because of a difference in the fertilization environment.
During the enactment of laws, regulating these studies there appears to be huge influence from politicians rather than specialists in the medical field. Since this research is aimed at solving medical challenges, it would be ideal if the medical personnel would be allowed to deliberate much more on the issue because they have a better understanding. Logically, it is important to forego the process of formulation of the legislations regarding stem cell studies to the physicians and to entertain little input from the public.
Ball, P. (2012). Unnatural: The heretical idea of making people. New York: Vintage Publishers.
Campbell, A. & Capps, B. (2010). Contested cell: Global perspectives on the stem cell debate. London: Imperial College Press.
Carey, N. (2012). The epigenetics Revolution: How modern biology is rewriting our understanding of genetics, disease and inheritance. London: Icon Books Ltd.
Freckelton, I. & Petersen, K. (2006). Disputes and dilemmas in health law. Annandale: Federation Press.
Hermerén, G. & Kristina, H. (2011). Translational stem cell research: Issues beyond the debate on the moral status of the human embryo. New York: Humana Press.