Obama signals open to change on stem cell policy
U.S. President Barack Obama signaled on Tuesday that he would be open to policy changes on stem cell research if the science on adult stem cells determined that thorny ethical issues could be avoided without harming medical advancement.
Obama lifted restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research earlier this month, angering abortion opponents but cheering those who believe the study could produce treatments for many diseases.
Asked at a White House news conference if he wrestled with the ethics of the issue, given the promise in adult stem cell research, Obama said:
“Now, I am glad to see progress is being made in adult stem cells. And if the science determines that we can completely avoid a set of ethical questions or political disputes, then that’s great. I have — I have no investment in causing controversy. I’m happy to avoid it if that’s where the science leads us.”
But he said based on the potential gains to be made to alleviate human suffering in embryonic stem cell research, he felt he had done the right thing.
“… what I don’t want to do is predetermine this based on a very rigid ideological approach, and that’s what I think is reflected in the executive order that I signed.”
Many social conservatives are opposed to embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of human embryos. But some staunch opponents of abortion rights support human embryonic stem cell research, which supporters say could lead to insights that could provide treatments for diseases from diabetes to AIDS.
Stem cell experts agree that all types of stem cells should be developed, but it is not clear which offer the best route to a new type of therapy called regenerative medicine, in which it is hoped doctors can replace brain cells destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease, reverse genetic defects like cystic fibrosis, and regrow severed spinal cords.
Obama’s remarks suggest that if the science points conclusively in a direction that avoids ethical or political landmines, then he would be glad to take that route.
(Photo: Obama smiles during news conference at White House, March 24, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES POLITICS BUSINESS)