The first embryonic stem cells were first isolated from animals in 1981 by Sir Martin Evans. However it wasn’t until 1998 that James Thompson first isolated human embryonic stem cells. Since then continuing research with stem cells has shown to be sensitive issue because of the perception of morality by humans. For this reason stem cell research legislation has been enacted and has been ever changing throughout time.
Therefore, we will see the stem cell research legislation history in the United States, how it compares to other statutes in the world, what the current legislative state of affairs is, and where the law on stem cells in the United States should go in the future and why. According to an article from the Fort Wayne Indiana News-Sentinel, The federal government of the United Sates has never banned any research on embryonic stem cells. What has been banned in the United States relating to stem cell research is federal funding for research and it has been changing during the course of time.
In the 80’s, Reagan Administration official, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Otis R. Bowen was responsible for the first ban of federal financing of research involving fetal tissue (Hilts, 1992). A few later while during the George H. W. Bush administration, congress attempted to override the ban on federal funding but it was vetoed by the president (“Stem Cell History,” 2011). The same source goes on to list the fact that President Bill Clinton gave out an executive order in 1993 to lift the ban that had been set for federal funding.
However, in 1994 after receiving many letters of disapproval, he reversed his decision and the ban was once again in effect. Later on, in 1996 legislation passed what is called the Dickey-Wicker Act which prohibits the destruction of embryos during research. Years later during the George W. Bush Administration, severe restrictions were placed on federally funded into human embryonic stem cell research (Coghlan, 2011). Then when Barack Obama was running for the presidency, he swore that he would lift the ban that was placed by George W. Bush.
So with this said Barack Obama kept true to his word and gave the executive order to lift the ban in this memo (“Remarks of President Barack Obama,” 2009): Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.
After this executive order was given, the ban on federal funding was lifted and has not been changed as of today. The United States in only one of the many countries around the world that participate in stem cell research. Along with the United States countries in in Asia and in Europe have become the leading areas of where stem cell research has proven to be greatly advanced with new advancements. So with this said one can see that Stem cell research is acceptable in many countries around the world but that does not mean it is not a controversial matter.
Like in the United Sates, stem cell research has also been a sensitive issue all over the world and legislation on the research varies widely depending on cultural approach to the matter. To illustrate the variance in legislation internationally with stem cell research, one way is to comprehend it is by continent so we can see how it can compare to statutes in the United States. In the continent of Africa, according to the research of Isassi, Knoppers, Singer, Daar (2004, p. 629) there is little regulation on genetic research and human reproductive technologies.
South Africa specifically is undergoing a process of policy redesign in which they are moving from being a restrictive to a more moderate attitude in the legislation of embryo research. Some of the countries in Latin America that have applied restrictive policies on stem cell research include: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama and Peru. The research of Isassi, Knoppers, Singer, Daar (2004, p. 630) goes on to mention the view of Latin America towards stem cell research and their regulations.
First of all, with Latin America regulation is different from other areas of the world primarily because of the fact that many of the countries within this region of the world have a population that are of predominantly Catholic faith. Therefore, their Catholic views affect their regulations on the manipulation of embryos and have legislation that is more of a prohibitive policy design. Furthermore, a great way to compare legislation with the United States is its purpose behind legislation. One example is the country of Mexico.
According to Isassi, Knoppers, Singer, Daar (2004, p. 30), the government is devoted to invest in science and biotechnology in order to achieve economic development. This purpose differs from the view of the United States since its main purpose is to treat diseases and disabilities. Now for Asian countries the approach towards stem cell research differs which influences their legislation within the matter. In reference to Isassi, Knoppers, Singer, Daar (2004, p. 627) Countries including China, India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand have implemented a pragmatic approach towards their legislation.
In other words, they have very little to no regulation at a national level towards stem cell research. Now for Europe the legislation for stem cell research varies widely from country to country. According to Walters (2004, p. 5), the United Kingdom and Belgium are allowed to manipulate embryos for research purposes. On the contrary, some nations in Europe prohibit human embryo research. The countries that do not allow human embryonic stem cell research include Austria, Ireland, Italy, Norway and Poland.
After comparing different views and policies around the world that pertain to stem cell research one can see that it truly varies. The current legislative state of affairs on stem cell research is somewhat modest than simpler than before. Since Barack Obama took office and issued the executive order 3505, the ban federally funded stem cell research has been removed. This now means more research is able to be done since more funds will be available. Like the president mentioned in his memorandum for the deliverance of executive order 3505, that medical miracles do not happen by accident but from painstaking and costly research.
There might have been missed opportunities from the years federal funding was not available but for now the possibilities of advancement are greater than before. The future of stem cell research and its advancements are unknown and if there is something that could affect its outcomes is legislation. Who knows if someday researches might misuse funds or researches in a way that will once again modify the current legislation on funding or even a ban on actual research. One can say that as the time goes by the public is leaning more towards supporting stem cell research and that seems to be the trend but what if one day that changes.
According to Gilbert (2004, p. 100), it must have wide public ethical support, and it should balance the perceived needs of the public with a respect for the strong and sincere convictions of those in the minority. So the outcome of future legislation on stem cell research can have many possibilities depending on the outcomes of the research and the population. In conclusion, stem cell research legislation and related legal issues have been established since the first time they isolated stem cells from animals.
Since then the legislation has been ever changing throughout the time within the United States specifically, and it can be compared and be distinct from other countries statutes, and we took a look at what the current legislative state of affairs is and where stem cell legislature would be like in the future. With all this in consideration, one can see how stem cell research has always been an ethical dilemma and how legislature towards it will be forever changing within time.
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Topic: Stem Cell Research Legislation and Related Legal Issues
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