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experts attack Bush’s plan to veto stem cell bill

In the USA, President George Bush is expected to use his veto to block a Senate bill expanding federal funds for embryonic stem cell research.

The speech made by President George Bush can be found at the Whitehouse website.

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Developmental Genetics at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research, said:

“If Bush uses his veto it would just re-emphasise how out of touch he is with rational thinking on this issue.”

Professor Azim Surani, Marshall-Walton Professor of the Wellcome Trust Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute, said:

“The veto is illogical, since the additional embryos generated from IVF treatment would be destroyed regardless. This destruction is morally indefensible if they can be used to give hope to people with debilitating diseases.”

Professor Anthony P. Hollander, ARC Professor of Rheumatology and Tissue Engineering and Head of Academic Rheumatology at Bristol University, said:

“The lack of Federal support for embryonic stem cell research in the USA will leave a big hole in funding that will have to be filled world-wide if we are effectively to develop this important area of therapeutics.

“I have no doubt that the UK government will continue to play its part in plugging the funding gap for stem cell research, creating a cohort of world-class cell biologists in the process.”

Professor Graeme Laurie, Chair of Medical Jurisprudence and Co-Director of AHRC Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law School of Law, University of Edinburgh, said:

“It is important to point out the underlying hypocrisy of this position. The stated reason for President Bush’s objection to embryonic stem cell research is that “murder is wrong”; why then does he not intervene to regulate or ban stem cell research carried out with private funds and which is happening across the United States? It is a strange morality indeed that pins the moral status and life of the embryo on the question of who is paying for the research.”

Professor Colin McGuckin, Professor of Regenerative Medicine, Stem Cell Institute, Newcastle University, said:

“Not one clinical trial on embryonic stem cells has taken place, while countless patients have been treated with Adult Stem Cells, including from Umbilical Cord Blood. The debate on the use of stem cells was carried out in the media and affected the politics here, with lobby groups confusing the real issues. Presidential veto does not solve the problem. The vote took place too soon. Rushing headlong into the use of human stem cells without reasoning and understanding of what they can do in animals first is foolhardy and will only put patients lives at risk. Stem Cell technology should not be a race – we have to get it right!”

Dr Sophie Petit-Zeman, Director of Public Dialogue, Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), said:

“Research using embryonic stem cells offers real hope for understanding and potentially alleviating serious conditions, from heart disease to cancer, stroke to Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. The Association of Medical Research Charities and our member organisations recognise the important ethical issues which surround this, while also acknowledging the moral and scientific imperative to do everything possible to promote research methods which can help millions of people who are now or may become ill. We support the strict and rigorous regulatory framework in which medical researchers can carry out their work as well as the prohibition on human cloning.”

Dr Simon Best, Chairman of the BioIndustry Association (BIA), said:

“A US restriction on this fundamental research is against the interests of all those who could one day benefit from potentially ground breaking medical advances. It is hoped that this important research will lead to new treatments for a wide variety of diseases including diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease and stroke.”

Professor Alison Murdoch, Chair Of The British Fertility Society and Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer of Reproductive Medicine, Newcastle University, said:

“Bad day for the USA. When a President vetos a democratically agreed decision, it is a bad day for democracy as well as for stem cell science in the USA.”

David Macauley, Chief Executive, UK Stem Cell Foundation, said:

“If he presses ahead with this veto, Bush will be turning against the Senate and against the majority of the US people to issue international stem cell research the most critical blow since the South Korean scandal. This is not about who will be first to ‘win the stem cell race’ or the opportunities this veto might create for advancing research outside of the US. It is about realising the potential of stem cell research and this will only be achieved if we encourage and support research and collaboration worldwide. Private investors need to see an equal commitment to stem cell research from governments worldwide.”

Professor Harry Moore, Centre for Stem Cell Biology, University of Sheffield, said:

“George Bush’s veto is selfish and a disservice to the majority of American citizens who like the UK population are in favour of embryonic stem research as they can see the enormous benefits that might come from it in terms of new medical therapies. They are very sensible and know research takes time and effort but has paid dividends over the years in terms of new medical treatment.

“Couples who have surplus embryos after IVF treatment and who donate their embryos for research do so with all the information to reach a balanced decision. Their embryos would otherwise be destroyed and they see the creation of embryonic stem cell lines as something positive which might help in the cure for diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s disease. New cell lines are needed for research in lab on many diseases and conditions.

“Most embryos produced by a normally fertile women will fail before implantation and not go on to a pregnancy. To call it ‘murder’ to use embryos donated for research is just emotional blackmail and does not wash with most people.”

Dr Anne McLaren, Wellcome/Cancer Research UK Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology, University of Cambridge, said:

“If Bush feels sufficiently strongly to justify his very first use of the veto, why has he never attempted to prevent private companies and other institutions from destroying hundreds or thousands of human embryos (all destined to die anyway) in the course of stem cell research? The German position is at least more morally consistent.”

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