NIH Releases Final Guidelines on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

The National Institute of Health released final guidelines this week which would expand government funding of embryo-destructive stem cell research. Going into effect on July 7th, the guidelines require that any embryo that will be used for research must be procured after an in vitro fertilization procedure, and that the donors, fully aware of their choices, gave the embryo for research knowing it would be destroyed. No donors should have been paid or otherwise coerced into giving the embryo, according to the National Institute of Health.

However, the guidelines leave several disturbing loopholes. First, there is no requirement that the in vitro fertilization doctor and the embryonic stem cell researcher be different people. This may lead to a conflict of interest in which the doctor/researcher would deliberately create more embryos than necessary for IVF in order to use the rest for research. Secondly, the guidelines do not require that women be told of all of the options for their “surplus” embryos, but merely those offered at their particular clinic. Lastly, the NIH plans to allow federal funding on lines created before the implementation of the final guidelines, meaning that many, if not most, of the lines derived prior to July 7, 2009 will be candidates for funding.

The NIH states that the guidelines “reflect the broad public support for federal funding of research using human embryonic stem cells.” Yet during the public comment period, over 49,000 comments were made, 30,000 of which opposed federal funding.

Despite billions of dollars in private and state funding, embryonic stem cells have yet to provide a cure for a single disease. Adult stem cells, however, have provided treatments for 73 ailments thus far. 

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