July 18, 2006
On Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill that would widen Federal funding of stem cell research using discarded embryos. However, President Bush is expected to veto that bill when it does hit his desk. One ethics expert from the University of Virginia explained the dilemma.
To scientists, embryonic stem cells are just a tool to develop possible cures for diseases. The cells are taken from unused embryos formed during in-vitro fertilization.
There is hope that one day stem cells can be transplanted into people to treat diseases like Alzheimer's, juvenile diabetes, and heart related problems.
"In theory, they might some day be used by doctors to heal our organs in ways that we can't do now with certain surgery and drugs," said Dr. Jonathan Moreno, of the University of Virginia Biomedical Ethics Center.
Experts said the reason for the debate is that some Americans believe stem cells are a human life. President Bush and many conservatives believe life begins at the time of conception.
"The major controversy here really is not a scientific one. It really is a question of how one balances ones values," said Dr. Moreno.
Most Americans disagree with the President. A recent poll shows 61% find the research morally acceptable. Experts said supporters are scared that if religious beliefs get in the way of research, the United States will lose its opportunity to save millions of lives in the near future.
"The way to deal with these issues in a society like ours is to ensure that we come as close to harmonizing people's beliefs as much as possible while moving on with the science as best as we can," said Dr. Moreno.
That battle will still rage on. Even if President Bush vetoes the bill, it could still be passed. The House of Representatives would still have a chance to vote, and a two-thirds majority vote would be needed to override a veto.