Daniel Herbster reporting
We again have the privilege to hear from Dr. David Prentice about important bioethical issues. Dr. Prentice has years of teaching and research experience, and he now works for the illustrious Family Research Council in Washington, DC. With President Obama’s recent actions on taxpayer funding of embryo-destroying research, I thought it would be good to hear from our friend and my former teacher.
DH: Dr. Prentice, what exactly did President Obama do in his recent executive order? How will it affect the sanctity of life in this country?
DP: President Obama has removed any restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The previous Bush policy restricted federal funds for those lines (dishes) of human embryonic stem cells that were already in existence on Aug 9, 2001; this allowed funding for the research to proceed, but did not provide any incentive for more embryo destruction. Now, any lines can receive federal funding, no matter when the embryo was destroyed, and no matter how the embryo was produced. This would mean even for cases in the future, and for embryos created by cloning, or for human-animal hybrid embryos.
DH: It seems ironic that the President would chose to announce his new policy on embryonic stem cell research a matter of weeks after a major breakthrough in ethically produced induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Could you tell us what exactly these researchers accomplished and how does it relate to the push for more embryonic stem cell research?
DP: Recently scientists at MIT showed that they could produce these induced stem cells (iPS cells) directly from a Parkinson’s patient, and make the type of neurons in the lab that are missing in the patient. They are still years or decades away from ever using these cells in a patient, but it illustrates the ease with which these iPS cells can be produced, producing cells for study in the laboratory, and all without the use of embryos, eggs, or cloning.
DH: In his remarks President Obama claimed to oppose “human cloning.” What do you think he meant by this statement and do you believe he is being completely accurate?