Stem Cell Research Legislation and the Related Legal Issues

Stem Cell Research Legislation and the Related Legal Issues

Scientific stem cell research came into the picture in 1998 when a researcher first isolated human embryonic stem cells. According to “AAA Policy Brief: Stem Cell Research” the breakthrough was a new ray of hope because this research would pave way for new ways of treating diseases. The stem cells could regenerate to any form of tissue in the body and it could be used to repair any damaged tissues in the body. This will be all in an effort to cure diseases that have been a challenge to the medical world.

Stem cell research in the United States has been linked to the issue of abortion. Since the legalization of abortion in 1973, the government has been adamant about funding stem cell research because it would encourage women to perform more abortions for monetary gain. It would be unethical for a mother to perform an abortion so as to sell the foetus to a research institute to carry out experiments.

Stem cell research and in particular that involving embryos became a subject of debate in the first term of President Bush. He denied funding to carry out research of that nature because it was a way of destroying human life (Diane, 2002). The bill states that “funding is denied for, the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purpose or research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on foetuses in utero” (“Congressional Record”). The congress passed a bill to revoke Bush’s decision, but it was futile because he did not consent to the bill. During the 109th congress, Bush signed a bill to prevent the creation of human foetuses with the reason of harvesting stem cells from them then destroying the foetuses at the end. The senate enforced this law by banning all research that was involved with creation of stem cells by destruction of embryos. Any other type of research was encouraged as long as it did not involve destruction of embryos. The great discovery had great potential and the benefits overweighed to possible risks so the National Institute of Health consulted with the Health and Human Services for the government to lift the ban on funding of the stem cell research. In 1999, the Health and Human services concluded that it was possible for researchers to use public funds for the research, but they could only use private funding for the destruction of embryos. The government wanted to be free from the responsibility of killing embryos and left it as a sole responsibility of the scientists.

Republicans and Democrats have for long advocated for the increase in funding of stem cell research making the debate on the issue more polarized. Democrats are in favour of expanding the research while Republicans favour other types of research that does not involve harvesting of stem cells from human embryos. This has made the issue of stem cell research a political battle between the Republicans and the Democrats.

In June 2007, President Bush issued an order encouraging government agencies to fund stem cell research as long as it did not involve the destruction of foetuses. At the same time, he declined to pass a bill passed by the senate stating that government spending should be extended to the research. His comments were that he would not allow Americans to cross their moral boundaries because signing that bill in to law would mean that taxpayers have all agreed to kill embryos that could potentially develop into humans just like you and me. A move to revoke his decision started soon after, but it was impossible to garner enough votes to revoke such a decision. President Bush received criticism from both the Democrats and Republicans saying that he was not open to the major changes and developments that would come with funding of the research. Many people would be cured of fatal diseases giving hope to the future generation. Critics said that this was a way that President Bush put ideologies before the inventions of science and politics before family needs.

Alternatively, the United Kingdom is one of the countries that have advanced stem cell research. In the previous years, as explored by Jimenez (200), there has been a lot of funding for both adult and embryonic stem cells so as to facilitate the research. Moreover, the public has welcomed this type of research without any criticism unlike in the United States. The different universities in Britain have collaborated to make this research a success and to continue looking for other ways that will make the research more beneficial to the people in the United Kingdom. The government has continuously funded this research and should continue to do so if they wish to remain competitive in the world.

The United Kingdom is one of the most progressive and advanced countries in the world regarding stem cell research. The legislation is flexible to so as to cater for scientific advances, but at the same time it is very strict. In order to carry out stem cell research, one needs to seek approval for the government and state why the research can not be carried out through any other way. It is also prohibited to keep hybrid embryos for more than 14 days when the embryo starts to develop. It is however important to note that, though the laws allow for the research to be carried out. The reagents to be used are very expensive and more often than not it is impossible to get government funding to carry out stem cell funding.

The amount of money invested by the Chinese government to fund this research is enormous. They are well equipped with modern laboratories with the state of the art machines and their scientist are more than prepared to take the stem cell research to the next level. They have also formulated laws that govern this type of research just like the United Kingdom. The laws are very strict, but at the same time acceptable giving the scientists room to carry out their research without government intervention (Jimenez, 2009).

Barrack Obama has decided to lift the ban on embryonic stem cell research in the United States. The question is, is this going to make any impact or is it just a symbolic move? According to Jimenez (2009) many scientists are not optimistic about the decision made by the president because the United States government is not working together to support this issue. Even if a scientist received federal funding from the government to carry out this research, the government can decide if the money should be spent or not. They can also decide on how the money will be spent thus putting strains on the research. Therefore, many scientists do not feel comfortable working with these cells because the laws can change at any time leaving them hanging. Since the government has the last words, the situation is not likely to change in the United States. The money to fund the project is not the problem, but the regulations imposed by President Bush during his administration. Even if it was allowed and the government decided to fund the research, it would be met with harsh criticism fro the public including other religious groups. The United States is about three to four years behind in stem cell research when compared to other advanced countries like China which is bound to become the world’s leading country in stem cell research (Jimenez, 2009).

The first thing the United States government should do in case they want to allow the research of embryonic stem cells to tae place is to lift the ban made by President Bush. This way, scientists will feel more encouraged to venture into this field. Because the problem is mainly critics from the public and other religious organization based on ethical issues, the government should take the responsibility of educating the public concerning the research so as to show them that the research will be in the long run beneficial to them; it is going to save lives that contemporary medicine could not. The other step that the government should do is to formulate policies that will govern how the research is carried out. Just like in China and the United Kingdom, the laws should be flexible and at the same time harsh. Only research that has proved to be very beneficial and can not be done through any other way should be allowed to be done. The final step will be to offer government funds to this research ensuring that they do not interfere on the process of the research.

Conclusively, stem cell research is a breakthrough in the field of science and medicine and is bound to offer treatments and test for the activity of drugs. It has been accepted in countries like the United Kingdom and China where the government has invested a lot of funds towards this research. The government has also formulated laws that are flexible and at the same time strict to ensure that the research is well regulated (Rugnetta & Peroski, 2009). Alternatively, in the United States, there was a ban by President Bush against this type of research prohibiting government funds to be directed to stem cell research. President Obama has lifted the ban though most people in the United States are still pessimistic about the success of stem cell research.


AAAS Centre for Science Technology and Congress (2010). “AAA Policy Brief: Stem Cell Research” October 13, 2010.

“Congressional Record.” Government Printing Office.

Diane, T. (2002). “Background and Legal Issues Related to Stem Cell Research.” June 12, 2002.

Jimenez, C. (2009). “China will be the World Leader in Stem Cell Research.” Global Talent News. September 24, 2009.

Rugnetta, M. & Peroski, M. (2009). “A Life Science Crucible: Stem Cell Research and Innovation Done Responsibly and Ethically.” Centre for American Progress. January 16, 2009.

Russell, K., & Munzer, S. (2007). Stem cell century: law and policy for a breakthrough technology. USA: Yale University Press. Print.

Winter, J. (2010). “Stem Cell Research Legislation.” Retrieved (December, 06,2010) from HYPERLINK “”

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