Reactions to the research
Globe and Mail Update
Saturday, August 18, 2001
Canada's position on stem cell research
At the moment, the government would allow stem-cell research using embryos that are less than 14 days old and would otherwise be destroyed. But it hopes the ethical and scientific questions about when and how embryos are used will be determined by a parliamentary committee that begins hearings this fall, Health Minister Allan Rock's spokesman said in late July.
The "government's preference" is outlined in a draft bill on regulation of reproductive technologies, allowing use of eggs fertilized in a laboratory for the original purpose of impregnating a woman who had been unable to conceive.
In vitro fertilization typically produces more embryos than required. The unneeded embryos are destroyed (or frozen if the woman believes she may want to become pregnant again). The government's draft bill would allow surplus embryos to be used for medical research with the consent of the egg and sperm donors.
The 14-day limit is set because that is the point at which the first signs of a nervous system appear.
The government unveiled its draft bill in May. At the time, Mr. Rock said that the government wanted to make sure that "embryos are accorded proper respect."
Mr. Rock's draft appeared only after the government received polling data showing that most Canadians would allow the use of donated embryos for stem-cell research. The poll suggested that 86 per cent of Canadians would allow use of embryos in research with proper government regulation. But 22 per cent strongly oppose the idea.
The federal government does not provide funding for scientific research involving stem cells, but has received patent applications from biotech firms planning to clone embryos for research purposes.
U.S. President George W. Bush's stem-cell decision
On Thursday, August 9, 2001, U.S. President George W. Bush's decided to allow federal funding for limited stem-cell research, as provided by the White House. As part of that decision, he stated:
Federal funding will apply only to research using existing embryonic stem-cell lines, that is, stem cells already harvested from destroyed embryos. It will not apply to work that destroys additional human embryos.
Federal funds will only be used for research on existing stem-cell lines that were derived: (1) with the informed consent of the donors; (2) from excess embryos created solely for reproductive purposes; and (3) without any financial inducements to the donors.
No federal funds will be used for: (1) the derivation or use of stem cell lines derived from newly destroyed embryos; (2) the creation of any human embryos for research purposes; or (3) the cloning of human embryos for any purpose.
Mr. Bush will create a new President's Council on Bioethics to study the human and moral ramifications of developments in biomedical and behavioural science and technology. The council will study such issues as embryo and stem-cell research, assisted reproduction, cloning, genetic screening, gene therapy, euthanasia, and psychoactive drugs.
The Vatican enters the stem cell debate
Roman Catholic anti-abortion activists. want to halt stem-cell research that uses fertilized human eggs.
In a direct appeal to George W. Bush at the papal summer retreat on July 23rd, the Pope told the visiting U.S. President that the creation of human embryos for research purposes is morally wrong.
In an anti-abortion statement read with Mr. Bush at his side, the Pope spoke of "evils such as euthanasia, infanticide and, most recently, proposals for the creation for research purposes of human embryos, destined to destruction in the process."
The Pope did not specifically condemn the use of embryos created initially to help women become pregnant -- in vitro fertilization -- if those embryos were no longer needed and would otherwise be destroyed.
But a Vatican spokesman said later that the Pope opposes any stem-cell research using embryos.