U.S. approves first “ethical” embryonic stem cell lines
The U.S. government has approved the first 13 batches of human embryonic stem cells, enabling researchers using them to get millions of dollars in federal funding as promised by President Barack Obama in March.
According to Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the stem cell lines met strict ethical restrictions. The cells, for instance, have to have been made using an embryo donated from leftovers at fertility clinics and parents must have signed detailed consent forms.
As our Health and Science Editor Maggie Fox reports, Collins described these criteria as an acceptable compromise between those who want this research to go ahead and critics who oppose it because human embryos are destroyed in the process of making these stem cells.
“I think the broad consensus among most of the public … is that stem cell research of this ethically acceptable kind should go forward,” he told reporters in a telephone briefing on Wednesday. “These were derived from embryos derived under ethically sound consent processes.”
Collins said these embryonic stem cells are still needed for research even though scientists have found ways to turn ordinary cells into what resemble embryonic stem cells. “I think one could make a very strong case that we need both,” he said.
Is this an acceptable compromise? Is there an ethical difference between embryos created just to produce stem cells and embryos left over at fertility clinics?