Concerns over Bush decision to allow limited stem cell research

 The decision by President Bush to allow a limited level of stem cell research using federal funds has disturbed pro-life campaigners. John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, said: "Although the president was at pains to emphasise his ethical standpoint, and while we welcome his decision not to allow research on new embryos, we have some concerns about research on existing embryo stem cell lines. "This move will increase the market-value of stem cell lines from embryos who were deliberately destroyed, which is not a good message to send. It could also signal to scientists that, if they perform unethical experiments and procedures, they will eventually be rewarded. "Mr Bush seems to assume that embryo research would be performed in an ethical way, only in pursuit of ethical ends. However, it is still unclear what ethical restrictions will apply to federally-funded research. "The president will also have to make provision for the possibility that embryonic stem cells could develop into embryos. Scientists have used embryonic mouse cells to grow a complete animal, and, if this can also be done with people, human embryonic stem cells may need to be treated as embryos. Mr Bush should make provision for a ban on federal funding if this is found to be the case. "Finally, it would be a travesty if federal funds were provided for stem cell research on new embryos, whose stem cells were extracted by privately-funded researchers, but then handed over for use by government-funded scientists. It is important that the president's statement is studied carefully to ensure that no such loophole exists." During his election campaign the president took a strong stand against abortion and he has, until now, consistently refused to support the use of embryos left over after IVF. He is reported to have discussed the subject with Pope John Paul II during their meeting at Castel Gandolfo last month. The Pope made clear his objection to stem cell research, saying: "A free and virtuous society which America aspires to be, must reject practices that devalue and violate human life at any stage of conception until natural death."