STEM CELL RESEARCH: Clinton Requests Ethical Review
Expressing concern over the recent "mingling of human and nonhuman species," President Clinton Saturday asked an ethical panel for a "thorough review, balancing all ethical and medical considerations" of the part-human, part-cow stem cell research. In a letter to Princeton University's Harold Shapiro, chair of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, the president requested that the commission consider the ethical significance of the research at its meeting tomorrow in Miami. The research in question combines cow ova with human cell nuclei to "revert" the cells to an "embryonic state," so they may develop into any type of tissue a patient needs. A further concern to both the president and the bioethics community, however, is related research in which all-human embryonic cells, derived from lab- engineered embryos or aborted fetuses, are used to create similar cell growth. Clinton conceded that this research may in fact "have real potential for treating such devastating illnesses as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson's disease." But, the New York Times reports, a "political issue that lies in the background of the commission's deliberations is the ban on federal financing of fetal research." Clinton indicated in his letter that "the ethical issues of human embryonic stem cell research had not diminished since his statement of 1994 but that the benefits had become less hypothetical." The president's science advisor, Dr. Neal Lane, said the research "clearly raised urgent ethical, medical and legal issues that the president wants addressed and that's why he asked for the commission to give it immediate attention" (Wade, New York Times, 11/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.