Senators have introduced legislation to stop federally-funded research at the National Institutes of Health using embryonic stem cells, and instead promote stem cell research not involving the destruction or damage of human embryos.
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the sponsor of the legislation, said that the bill, the Patients First Act, “would encourage the use of adult stem cells for medical purposes,” an “ethical and effective alternative to embryonic stem cell research.”
“Medical breakthroughs achieved via stem cell research need not come at the expense of innocent life,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a cosponsor of the bill, stated.
The Patients First Act would reverse President Barack Obama’s 2009 executive order that allowed for federally-funded research at NIH using embryonic stem cells.
Previously, under the Bush administration, federal funding of embryonic stem cell research had been introduced but was limited to stem cell lines from embryos that had already been destroyed; no taxpayer dollars would fund research on new stem cell lines of living embryos, or the creation of new embryos.
The administration also directed federal funding of research on stem cells from other sources like umbilical cord placenta, and adult and animal stem cells. Obama’s executive order significantly expanded federally-funded embryonic stem cell research.
After a challenge was mounted to the Obama administration’s expansion of embryonic stem cell research, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ultimately upheld taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research in 2011, and the Supreme Court in 2013 declined to review a challenge to the ruling, allowing it to stand.
The 2008 Vatican document Dignitatis Personae states that “the obtaining of stem cells from a living human embryo…invariably causes the death of the embryo and is consequently gravely illicit.”
“Irrespective of efficacious therapeutic results,” the document goes on to add, such research “advances through the suppression of human lives that are equal in dignity to the lives of other human individuals and to the lives of the researchers themselves. History itself has condemned such a science in the past and will condemn it in the future, not only because it lacks the light of God but also because it lacks humanity”.
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