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Inside Story
Obama to end stem cell research ban
Inside Story examines the controversy surrounding embryonic research.
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2009 09:32 GMT

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It is the end of an eight year ban on potentially life-saving but controversial science.

Barack Obama, the US president, is taking steps to lift restrictions on the federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research in the US.
 
The administration of George Bush, the former US president, banned the use of taxpayers' money to fund the research in 2001 for religious reasons. Since then research has continued but has been paid for by money from the private sector.

But money is not the only argument, it also comes down to ethics, politics, religion and science - and striking some sort of balance between them.

Delighted scientists say stem cells from human embryos have the potential to revolutionise medical treatment and Obama's move will allow a rush of research aimed at better treatment.

But critics say Obama's decision to lift the funding ban is morally wrong. They contend that the destruction of embryos when conducting such research is equal to the destruction of a human life.

Is Obama's move merely a symbolic one to make a broad declaration that science, not political ideology, would guide his administration? Will it make a difference in a rapidly changing world? 

And is embryonic research worth all this attention, or are there other options? Are embryonic stem cells, perhaps, already obsolete?

Presenter Kamahl Santamaria is joined by Arthur Caplan, the chair of the department of Medical Ethics and the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Also our guests are Clarke Forsythe, a former director of law and bioethics at Americans United for Life and currently senior councel for the same organisation, and Stephen Minger, the director of the Stem Cell Biology Laboratory and a senior lecturer at the Wolfson Centre for age-related diseases at King's College London.

This episode of Inside Story aired from Monday, March 9, 2009.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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