President Obama overturns Bush policy on Stem Cells

The scientific community has received a major breakthrough at the hands of President Barack Obama.

On March 9, President Obama issued Executive Order 13505. It rescinds former President Bush’s statement on human embryonic stem cell research and Executive Order 13435, which ensured ethically responsible techniques in an effort to maintain human dignity and life.

Dr. Ron C. Michaelis, an instructor in the biology department at WCU states, “it is encouraging to see that the new administration appreciates the tremendous potential stem cell research has for improving health care in America.”

Under Executive Order 13505, The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institute of Health receive increased authority to fund embryonic stem cell research. It also expands the National Institute of Health.

Embryonic stem cells are cells derived from an embryo prior to implantation in the wall of the uterus. They have the ability to produce nearly every type of cell in the developing human body. Scientists say that stem cells can improve treatment and understanding of diseases.

“Every disease involves a situation in which the health of certain critical cells has been impaired,” said Michaelis. “The prospect of being able to replace diseased cells with functional ones has the potential to touch every branch of medicine, and improve our ability to treat every disease we know of – from cancer and cardiovascular disease to aching backs.”

Reactions to Executive Order 13505 thus far have been positive. Religious conservatives, however, still maintain that life begins at conception and that stem cell research is morally and ethically wrong.

Matthew Newsome, Cathlolic Campus Minister at WCU states that “it is not surprising that President Obama has done this. As Catholics, our pro-life morality says that life begins at conception. As conservatives, we need to speak up for the human beings who cannot speak for themselves.”

Whatever an individual’s stance, the United States is making major advances in the area of scientific research.

Dr. Christopher Hoyt, a professor of philosophy and bioethics at WCU, said that “it is important to realize that embryos never were and never will be destroyed simply to extract stem cells. Rather, stem cells are extracted from embryos scheduled to be destroyed anyway. However it is perfectly fair to expect that lifting the ban will help motivate the creation of new cell lines. So the debate over stem cells probably won’t go away. Those people who are offended by the use of cells extracted from embryos – even embryos already scheduled for destruction – will justifiably object to the legal change. Meanwhile, recent polls suggest that the majority of the American public has come to accept stem cell research, and supports this action of the Obama Administration.”