Reframing the Policy
Lawmakers should seize this momentous time of change to completely reframe the underlying policy and enact laws to fully promote ethically sound embryonic stem cell research. As a point of engagement, they would be well served to read Louis Guenin’s seminal analysis of ethics and law, The Morality of Embryo Use, which suggests correct public policy should be underpinned by a couple’s decision to donate embryos for research, under the proviso that such embryos be barred from transfer to a womb. The very conditions of donation confer moral permissibility.
The unreasonable and arbitrary restrictions of the Bush administration resulted in an eight-year battle between social conservatives and the pro-cures movement, a broad coalition of patients, researchers, and industry.
If there is a silver lining to this contentious wedge issue in American politics, it is the increased public awareness about the potential of embryonic stem cell research and support for the entire field of regenerative medicine. Citizens became frustrated at the paucity of funding and angered by the extremist, draconian proposals directed against somatic cell nuclear transfer research, threatening researchers and even patients with lengthy imprisonment and massive fines. Stem cell research confers hope to understanding, treatment, and eventual cures of a host of medical conditions. Opposing research funding is akin to crushing hope.
At its core, the pro-cures movement is not an advocacy or political movement. It is a consumer movement, where citizens see embryonic stem cell research as a personal health issue. Consumer demand drives the entire field forward at every level. A key goal is to create a legal framework where scientific research targeting cures will thrive.
Eight years of unreasonable restrictions is enough. Imagine a new era where science policy is predicated on scientific merit rather than ideology. It is time for Congress to fully recognize the consequences of the Dickey Amendment and take immediate action. It is time for all stem cell advocates and their allies to call for the repeal of the Dickey Amendment.