Monday, August 30, 2010

Obama stem cell policy is bad ethics, bad science, bad politics, and bad law

A federal court decision last week put a stop (at least temporarily) to Pres. Obama's policy of using federal funds for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the policy violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which has been passed by Congress every year since 1996 (and ironically re-signed into law by Obama himself). Dickey-Wicker prohibits federal funding of "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death."

The Obama administration tries to get around this law by distinguishing between the act of destroying the embryo and the subsequent research using the derived stem cells. It argues that Dickey-Wicker only prohibits funding of the former.

But this is a tenuous argument, as Lamberth pointed out, because ESCR necessarily requires the killing of human embryos. By funding ESCR, the government is encouraging and incentivizing embryo destruction -- in effect saying, "If you kill embryos, we will give you taxpayer money for your research." Dickey-Wicker (i.e., federal law) was meant to do precisely the opposite.

Ryan Anderson writes that Obama's stem cell policy is "bad ethics, bad science [and] bad politics."

It's bad ethics because it promotes the killing of young human beings for their useful parts, and it forces taxpayers to be complicit. It's bad science because such research no longer has much scientific or therapeutic merit, given the tremendous successes with alternative (ethical) kinds of stem cell research. It's bad politics because (writes Anderson) "it needlessly perpetuates a stem cell war where an easy peace is available. ... [A]fter the 2007 breakthrough [of ethical induced pluripotent stem cells] only the staunchest of ideologues were clamoring for public funding of embryo destruction."

But (Anderson continues) Obama's policy is also bad law. It's an illegal waste of taxpayer dollars on unethical, unnecessary and obsolete research, and it should never go back into effect.