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Benefits of the stem cell ban

Federal aversion to embryonic stem cell research had a silver lining: it galvanized the development of new biotechnologies in stem cell science, two bioethicists argue

John D. Loike and Ruth L. Fischbach
The NIH's recently proposed guidelines on the use of federal funds for human embryonic stem cell research have disappointed many scientists and patient advocates. This frustration mirrors the reaction to former President George W. Bush's 2001 restriction on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. But it is generally unrecognized that Bush's ban had a beneficial effect in enriching the partnership between bioethics and biomedical research. Two events in the 1990s propelled bioethics into the global arena. In 1997, cloning of the sheep Dolly triggered a world-wide debate on the ethics of human cloning. One year later, scientists described methods to isolate stem cells from human embryos and successfully reprogram them into other types of cells. This innovation sparked the current debate on the morality of destroying human embryos to obtain precious stem cells. Responding to these debates, Bush chose to follow the religious or moral convictions of many...

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