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It’s Science vs. Politics in Stem Cell Research

The Patients’ Coalition for Urgent Research (CURe), a consortium of three dozen national nonprofit patient organizations, reports that over 100 million Americans suffer from illnesses, some of them terminal, which may be treated by medical advancements in the area of stem cell research (1). The list of ailments includes cardiovascular diseases, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, severe burns, spinal cord injuries, and birth defects. While scientists continue to look for treatments and cures for these diseases through new medicine, innovative surgical techniques, and gene therapy, perhaps the most promising research is being encountered on the frontier of human embryonic stem cell research. From the beginning of this research in animals in the early 1980’s, stem cells have been celebrated for their nearly infinite potential in application towards the alleviation, and ultimately the eradication, of many branches of human illness and disease.

Animal stem cell research and preliminary human stem cell research indicates stem cells as a source of self-renewing, undifferentiated cells that have the ability to differentiate into organs, nerves, blood cells, skin, eyes, hair – basically, any tissue or cell found in an adult mammal. So far, scientists have isolated and indefinitely grown stem cells and, to some degree, demonstrated the cell’s ability to differentiate into numerous tissues and cell types. From this groundwork, the scientific community envisions that research using stem cells will lead us to the ability to grow entire organs for transplant to patients suffering from kidney, liver, and heart failure; neurons for patients afflicted with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease; tissue replacement for patients with damaged organs or severe burns; functioning islet cells that will produce insulin for patients diagnosed with diabetes; and the list continues. Because stem cells have the ability to differentiate into every kind of cell contained in the human body, their possible therapeutic effects have the potential to help hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

However, where there is the most promise, there is also the most controversy, and the bridge between life and death relies largely on the compromise between science and politics. The case against human embryonic stem cell research rests upon the core argument that embryonic stem cells are derived from human embryos and, as such, are protected by ethical principles against human experimentation (2). Whether or not stem cells represent a viable source of human life recapitulates the same debate as the abortion controversy: the argument about when human life begins.

Stem-Cell Research and the Media

Stem-Cell Research and the Media

Biomedical technology is getting much press due to the stem-cell debate. A controversial topic in itself, with the President of the United States taking a stand on the issue for funding purposes, the topic has received even more press over the consequences resulting from President Bush’s decision. With the President’s approval rating well over 80 percent since the September 11th attack, those who contest any of his decisions have been receiving feelings of anger from those who support him. I, however, would like to take a stand and contest Bush’s decision to limit the stem cell research funding. This paper presents two articles that examine Bush’s decision in different ways; one looks at the consequences from the point of view of stem cell researchers, and the other presents an avenue for the Presidential administration to defend their decision, which happens to be contradictory to their claim to be concerned with the science behind stem cell research. While the Janesville Gazette article is supposedly a defense of Bush’s decision, analyzing the claims and actual behaviors of Tommy Thompson and President Bush exemplifies their weak argument.

The Newsweek article by Begley (2001) conveys information about the consequences of President George W. Bush’s decision to limit the federal funding for stem-cell research to the 64 colonies already in existence. The article does not explicitly state President Bush’s decision to limit the funding of the research to the current 64 colonies, but only states that the President announced, “there were scores of stem-cell colonies around the word that federally funded scientists would be allowed to study.” Begley’s way of co…

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…n’s position, a careful analyzer can see major contradictions between his claims to use science to make the decision and his actual decision obviously not being based on science. By also examining and article which roots itself in the people involved daily with stem cell research, and by capturing their concerns with the President’s funding decision, this paper serves as a well rounded critique of Bush’s stem cell research funding decision in a time when patriotism does not allow for easy critiques of the current administration.


Begley, Sharon. (2001, September 10). In search of stem cells: It turns out many of the 64 lines may be unusable. Newsweek, p. 57.

Stem cell decision defended: Thompson” Number of developed lines mad no difference to Bush. (2001, September 7). The Janesville Gazette, pp. A1, A8.

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