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Stem Cell Research: U.S. Government and You

( [email protected] ) May 31, 2005 10:09 AM EDT

Recently, GospelPost reported the following:

Bush Renews Stance Against Embryonic Stem Cell Research

The vote falls far short of the 60 percent majority needed to override a presidential veto – the first ever that would be used by Bush since taking office in 2001.

WHY SHOUD YOU CARE?

This matter concerns all US citizens and residents because it would use federal funding that includes your hard-earned tax dollars. It is also a matter of grave magnitude impacting future research, potential medical cures and the moral fiber of the American society.

Stem cell research has been the subject of great public debate ever since President George W. Bush’s announcement on August 9, 2001 that he would support limited federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

WHAT DO YOU KNOW?

The practical application of stem cell research is “Stem cell therapy” which may be defined as the use of bio-engineer techniques and medical procedures to replace diseased/dysfunctional cells with healthy/functioning ones. Experiments are now taking place on multiple forms of human disorders ranging from diabetes, cancer, spinal cord injuries, to neurological diseases, e.g. Parkinson's disease and ALS - Lou Gehrig's disease.

There are two major sources of stem cells for research and therapy: adult stem cells (which are relatively hard and expensive to isolate and develop) and embryonic stem cells (which require the destruction of early embryos from in vitro, "outside the body," fertilization.)

ETHICAL CONCERNS

The Catholic Church and some conservative Christians have objected to in vitro fertilization on ethical ground. Furthermore, stem cell research includes procedures to destroy the very early embryo. Depending on a person’s view about when life begins and who has the right to destroy human embryos, stem cell research inevitably has led to controversial and crucial ethical dilemma for all Americans: general citizens, politicians and scientists alike.

NEW TREND IN PUBLIC OPINION

There many facets to the matters of stem cell research such as medical (the promise of cures), scientific (improvement in knowledge and practical application) and economical (commercializing of embryo or procedures). There many forces driving the research and debate such as international competition, interest groups of scientist and medical community, American political party policy, personal desire for cure, etc.

Recently, well-known patients have further thrust this controversy into the public eye: the spinal injuries of Christopher Reed, the Parkinson’s disease of former President Ronald Reagan, and the outspoken endorsement of his wife Nancy Reagan have gradually swayed the public opinion towards a more open attitude in favor of stem cell research and stem therapy. And now news has come of new successful research coming out of South Koreans.

CONFUSION OR CONVICTION?

Amidst the heightened sense of urgency, heated public debate, contention about the use of federal funds and competing voices of politics, economics and ethics, are you more confused or is your conviction deepened by reflection and research? How do you apply your Christian faith and develop an ethical position?

Personally, I think all these new developments and recent debate related to stem cell research is a providential wake up call for materialistic, hedonistic and secularized American Christians who do not often pause to search seriously for answers to questions such as:

• What is a human being?

• When does a human life begin?

• How are we to use science and technology for scientific development and medical improvement?