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gqmartinez's picture

From the WaPo:

The Obama administration today is announcing guidelines for government-sponsored embryonic stem cell research but the draft regulations would limit federal funding of work on human embryos donated at fertility clinics.

The guidelines being issued by the National Institutes of Health open the door for a vast expansion of the research, but stop short of allowing scientists to create human embryos for research purposes or pursuing cloning techniques.

Administration officials took the more conservative approach largely for political reasons, rather than any particular scientific concern.

I honestly don't find this to be anything more or less than what McCain would have done. Better than Bush? Yes. Better than alternatives? Nope. We'll have to find some other thing to account for the 5-10% less evil formula. Oh yeah, the garden. I forget.

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Submitted by lambert on

Something like the two-minutes-to-midnight meter on the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists.

Actually, the formula had 2% less evil, but I'm willing to move to 5% on the basis of revealing the 4 torture memos. It's going to be hard to get any kind of a big swing, though, as long as the banksters are running the country.

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Submitted by bringiton on

in the form of the amusingly named Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Surely this is not a call for Obama to treat his office as an authoritarian dictatorship, from which he can nullify laws at his whim, is it? Perhaps it is simply naiveté, a misunderstanding of the nature of law in American governance.

The Dickey-Wicker Amendment, banning deliberate creation of embryos for research purposes as well as cloning of human embryos, has been federal law since 1996 with a few expansions since. It has been renewed each year as part of the budget process, and it will likely be renewed again this year and for the foreseeable future regardless of who is president. This is a function of political reality outside of the control of Obama or John McCain or anyone else.

What GW Bush did was ban the use of federal funds for research on any human embryos regardless of origin, and for research on any human stem cell derived lines other than 22 already existing and functionally useless for therapeutic purposes. This ban far exceeded the restrictions of Dickey-Wicker. What Obama's order does is reverse the Bush limitations, putting things back as they were when Clinton was in office.

Absent consent from Congress, this is all that is humanly possible for Obama to accomplish. Obama cannot unilaterally override Dickey-Wicker. Anyone unhappy with this new state of affairs, and I am not, needs to bring their concerns to Congress where the power resides to make any further relaxation of federal restrictions.

The limitations imposed by Dickey-Wicker do not prevent federal funding of research on human stem cell lines derived from freely donated embryos created by in vitro fertilization with the original intent of implantation, thanks to an HHS legal counsel interpretation of "embryo" originated under Clinton and roundly condemned at the time by the Right as legal hair-splitting. Under this interpretation, which is incorporated in Obama's executive order, embryonic stem cells are not embryos and therefore outside the scope of Dickey-Wicker.

With over 400,000 embryonic cells currently in frozen storage, there will be plenty of donors who are enlightened enough to view the donation of their otherwise doomed left-over fertilized eggs for stem cell research for what it is, the moral equivalent of organ transplants from terminal patients. Even under the repressive atmosphere of the Bush administration the number of donors who decided to gift their frozen fertile eggs to research was enough to allow development of a conservatively estimated 275 new stem cell lines. Under the current enlightened atmosphere, thanks to Obama's actions, that number will surely increase and probably by a substantial amount.

Obama has done all a human being can do, short of defying federal law. He is to be commended for his decision and this action. To criticize him for only doing what is humanly possible is - well, I don't know what it is; foolish at the least. To compare Obama’s real actions to what might have happened under McCain is to engage in a degree of pointless speculation that frankly does not deserve further commentary.

A brief if slightly dated history of stem cell politics here.

The new Draft Regulations from NIH are here.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

class this year we were treated to a discussion of the uses of stem cells and the emphasis (sigh, this is Lubbock) was on a new / non-embryonic source of the stem cells. Unfortunately the video for that class isn't posted yet. It looks like the Mercury has some good news about the general topic.