Saturday, March 07, 2009

Obama ends Bush ban on embryo stem cell research.

Common sense returns to the White House:

Barack Obama will overturn an important medical research policy of George Bush's presidency on Monday, by ending restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research which scientists consider crucial for the development of new medical treatments.

The move was confirmed yesterday by the White House, rescinding a ban put in place by Bush in August 2001.

It is the latest in a series of actions by the president casting aside some of Bush's most divisive policies. Throughout his tenure Bush was accused of substituting ideology for scientific evidence on issues such as stem cell research, energy and birth control. In 2007 Obama, then a senator, said Bush's obstruction of stem cell research was "deferring the hopes of millions of Americans who do not have the time to keep waiting for the cure that may save or extend their lives".

Overturning the ban on funding will cheer patients, doctors and scientists, who maintained that it was a politically motivated act that ignored science.

"I feel vindicated after eight years of struggle, and I know it's going to energise my research team," said Dr George Daley of the Harvard stem cell institute and children's hospital of Boston. "Science works best and patients are served best by having all the tools at our disposal."

I have no idea whether Bush's decision was motivated by genuine religious fervour or simply by a cynical attempt to please the Christian right base which he courted so assiduously, but I do know this; one could normally expect the US to be at the front of scientific research and development and, in this instance, the UK is ahead by a mile.

I also have no doubt that social conservatives will now round on Obama and have yet another stick with which to beat him, but he did vow before the election to end the war on science which Bush was waging and, true to his promise, he has begun to do so.

"I believe that the restrictions that President Bush has placed on funding of human embryonic stem cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations," he said. As president, Obama guaranteed he would ensure all research on stem cells is conducted "ethically and with rigorous oversight."

Stem cell research can lead to cures for juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and spinal cord injuries. The suffering of millions of people could be alleviated as a result of this research and Obama is right to end Bush's ban.

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2 comments:

Steel Phoenix said...

What a relief. I think the thing that bothers me most about government is when they choose to stand in the way of progress, made worse in this case by it being a religious decision. I just can't see any godless person equating the value of a single cell with that of an adult capable of making millions of them. The potential for advancement here is astounding.

Kel said...

The potential for advancement here is astounding.

I agree SP. I am very pleased that Obama is reversing Bush's religious war on science.