With the discovery of stem cells in mice, in 1981, there was increased research on the stem cells, which led to the discovery of the human stem cells, in 1998 (Snow, 2003, p. 24). Since then, research on stem cells has become a critical area of study in modern molecular Biology. The research has created the potential to treat serious medical conditions caused by abnormal cell functions such as cancer and leukemia.
Moreover, stem cell research has enabled the creation of new renewable sources of cells and tissues for the therapeutic treatment of spinal cord injuries, burns, and heart diseases amongst other diseases and related body conditions. Stem cell research is guided by policies, rules, and regulations that concern the sources of the stem cells, the application of the stem cells in the medical and non-medical fields, and bioethical concerns (Holland, & Lebacqz, 2001, p. 23).
Stem cell legislation is a leading source of controversies in most countries; thus, the laws vary from one country to another. For instance, in the United States, some states give financial support towards the legislation of human stem cells while others support the banning of human stem cell research. This research paper reviews the history of stem cell research in the U.S., its comparison with comparable statutes of the rest of the world, and current legislation affairs.
History of stem cell research legislation in the U.S
The history of stem cell research legislation in the U.S. can be dated back to 1973 when president Roe V. Wade legalized abortion in the U.S. caused moral and ethical concerns (Solo & Pressberg, 2007, p. 14). This led to researches that experiment human embryos, and in 1978, a successful human in vitro fertilization was carried out in England.
Following the developments in human, “in vitro fertilization, the federal government was prompted to create legislations against federal funding of researches involving experiments on human embryos” (Solo & Pressberg, 2007, p. 69). In 1995, a National Institute of Health (N.I.H) panel recommended for federal funding for research activities involving embryo left over from in vitro fertilization.
In addition, the N.I.H panel also recommended for federal funding of research on embryos precisely created for experimental research. The administration of President Bill Clinton agreed to fund the research activities that involved embryo leftover from in vitro fertilization, but declined funding of researches that involved the use of human embryos created mainly for experimental research, due to ethical and moral concerns.
Following the recommendations, there was intervention from the congress that led to the formation of the Dickey-Wicker amendment act of 1995 that bore any federal funding for the Health and Human service department in carrying out research activities that involved the destruction of human embryo irrespective of its source. The Dickey-Wicker amendment act prompted funding of private research that led to the step forward discovery of human embryonic stem cells in 1998.
In 2001, the issue of stem cell research that involved humans became a sophisticated political issue during the first year of the reign of President George W. Bush who argued that researching human embryos was destroying human life (National Research Council, 2005, p. 48). President Bush enacted the “banning of federal funding of research activities that involved the creation of new embryonic stem cells from fertilized embryos” (Solo & Pressberg, 2007, p. 94).
On the other hand, the congress members advocated for an increase in funding of human stem cell research activities and a result they signed a letter to Bush on the same. In 2005, the members of the Congress voted to support the funding of embryonic stem cell research activities that involved research on left over of frozen embryos of in vitro fertilization. In the same year, the NHI used 39 million U.S dollars to fund human stem cell research activities.
President George W. Bush, who argued that the laws would lead to destruction of human embryos, vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Acts of 2006 and 2007. This led to criticism by both democratic and republican members of the Congress who supported the idea of stem cell research. President Barrack Obama removed certain restrictions on federal funding for human stem cell research activities in his executive order of 2009 (National Research Council, 2005, p. 49).
How the History of S.C.R in U.S compares to similar statues of the rest of the world
The history of S.C.R in the U.S is comparable to other comparable statues of the world in various ways. In Europe, the legislation on S.C.R is not consistent as in the U.S. Some European countries such as Germany, Italy, and Portugal amongst others in the list prohibit the use of embryonic stem cells in research. On the other hand, Sweden and the United Kingdom have legislation that supports the use of embryonic stem cells in research.
This brings controversy in the common understanding of bioethical issues concerning S.C.R. Most countries in Africa support the S.C.R similarly to most states in the U.S. However, South Africa is an exception to the African countries that support human S.C.R because of the controversy in signing the bill on National Health Act (N.H.A) to replace the Human Tissue Act.
Most of the Christian and health organization argue that the bill of right is not applicable to the unborn, which to some point has some sense in it. Contrastingly, the signing of the bill is helpful in allowing S.C.R in treatment of serious diseases and conditions such as cancer and diabetes. The bill is not only applicable to the unborn but also the living (Snow, 2003, p. 55).
Moreover, in Asia, controversy in the legislation of S.C.R exists amongst different nations, as in the case of the U.S. For instance, a country like China allows “human embryonic S.C.R for therapeutic purposes, but prohibits human reproductive cloning” (Holland, & Lebacqz, 2001, p. 106). Similarly, the South Korean government allows human cloning for therapeutic purposes but prohibits human reproductive cloning.
In addition, the Japanese government has a policy of S.C.R for therapeutic a purpose that was allowed from 2004 though formal guidelines on the same have not been released. The lack of clear policies on guidelines concerning human S.C.R brings controversies in the S.C.R legislation thus should be enacted. In my view, there should be universal agreement on the national and international policies concerning S.C.R to eliminate controversies in different countries (Solo & Pressberg, 2007, p. 78).
The current legislative state of affairs in U.S and the future
The current legislative state of affairs in the U.S support funding of human S.C.R, unlike in the George W. Bush government that did not support the federal funding of the research activities. President Barrack Obama made the funding of the human S.C.R activities possible through two executive orders in 2007 and 2009. The executive orders supported expansion of human S.C.R activities in an ethical way and removal of barriers to responsible scientific research respectively.
In the future, the human S.C.R activities may be hindered because of lack of sufficient funds as the supporters of prolife in the federal government oppose funding of human S.C.R considering it to deny the unborn the right to live. Contrastingly, the researchers support the funding activities because of their ability to discover new treatment for chronic diseases and ailments. The government should thus support the funding of human S.C.R activities (National Research Council, 2005, p. 52).
In my view, there should be universal legislation on human S.C.R activities to eliminate controversies in the government and the world at large. The government should support funding of human S.C.R activities and education programs that offer similar research activities. On the other hand, the human S.C.R should not involve the use of life embryos for research as it is unethical and denies the unborn the right to life. Alternative sources of stem cells should thus be sought to replace the use of life embryos.
In conclusion, the legislation of human S.C.R is inevitable in the society because of myriad of chronic diseases may have potential cures through research. This paper has highlighted history of human S.C.R legislation in the U.S and the rest of the world. There should be universal legislation on human S.C.R to eliminate controversies on the subject.
Moreover, the government should support the funding of human S.C.R activities and study programs to facilitate therapeutic treatment of epidemics such as Cancer and HIV/ AIDS. However, destruction of live embryos should be prohibited as it is unethical and contrary to the right to life; thus, alternative sources of human stem cells should be sought.
Holland,S., & Lebacqz, K. (2001). The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate:Science, Ethics and Public Policy. Cambridge: MIT press.
National Research Council. (2005). Guidelines for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.
Snow, N. (2003). Stem Cell Research: New Frontiers In Science And Ethics. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.
Solo,P., & Pressberg,G. (2007). The Promise and Politics of Stem Cell Research. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.