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Bush's Stem Cell Decision: What Will It Mean?

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If Bush supports the funding, the conservative Family Research Council warned today, "We will say that it is permissible to kill so long as we intend to bring good from it. The new modus operandi for medicine will be 'kill to cure.'"

But White House spokesman McClellan said that Bush's decision was "very complex".

Those who support embryonic stem cell research say that studies will proceed, with or without government money. If studies receive only private money, they argue, it will slow medical advances, narrow the social benefits examined, and prevent public oversight of the studies.

Goldstein says that even if Bush rejects government funding, strong congressional support for federal support of the embryonic could emerge later this year.

A July 20 letter to Bush, signed by 61 Senators, urged him to fund the embryonic studies. And according to a letter Sen. Arlen Specter (R, Penn.) sent Bush, "Research on embryonic stem cells could result in treatments or cures for millions of Americans suffering a variety of illnesses ... You have the lives of millions of our -- and your -- constituents in your hands."

A number of prominent Republicans who oppose abortion have weighed in to support funding the embryonic studies, including Sen. Bill Frist, MD, (R, Tenn.). Frist cautions, however, that the research should be capped to a certain number of "cell lines" taken from the human embryos. Cell lines are cells of a particular type that scientists can continue to grow in the lab and use in their research.

But Goldstein tells WebMD, "If you think that the use of even one cell line involved murder, you're not going to be happy with that compromise. And scientists such as myself will tell you that there's no scientific justification to restricting yourself to one or a few cell lines. You're almost condemning yourself to failure."

The media have already begun to speculate what Bush will decide. CNN, for example, has reported the possibility the president will make a compromise and support the use of stem cells taken from the embryos left over at fertility clinics, which could otherwise have been thrown away. To do so would require written consent from the couples that produce them.

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