The controversy over the funding of stem cell research by the federal government is used as a case study for examining how policy choices are made in the field of public bioethics. This article examines the manner in which the decision to fund stem cell research has been influenced by the convergence of evolving scientific knowledge, conflicting religious values, and the role of elected officials in a representative democracy. The article begins by reviewing the current state of scientific knowledge concerning adult stem cells, embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, and the process of direct cell re-programming. Because each of these four areas of regenerative medicine possess advantages and disadvantages as a potential source of medical treatment, it appears that non-scientific considerations explain the decisions of policymakers to favor or disfavor particular types of research. Next, the article surveys the official positions of major religious faiths in the United States in regards to stem cell research, and concludes that there are a variety of differing religious perspectives concerning both the moral status of the embryo and our society’s affirmative obligation to heal the sick. In addition, the article discusses the bifurcated funding landscape for stem cell research, whereby individual states and the federal government both currently provide some measure of research support. Finally, this article concludes by asserting two neutral principles that should guide elected officials in the future when they consider whether to fund medical research in controversial areas: 1) the federal government should be the preferred source of funding for basic medical research and 2) government funding decisions should not favor one religious perspective over another.
- stem cell research,
- public funding,
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/edward_fallone/2/