With the production of Dolly, we also entered a vast technological frontier of possibilities. The cloned sheep "was born after nuclear transfer from a mammary gland cell, the first mammal to develop from a cell derived from adult tissue." Taking a cell containing 98 per cent of the DNA, or its genetic blueprint, from the udder of a six-year-old adult sheep, they fused it to the egg of another sheep to produce a lamb that is virtually an exact copy." (Marsh, 1) Equally as groundbreaking as the creation of the world's first clone was the implication of its process, which indicated that there is a way to employ adult cells, already differentiated and specialized to their own organic functions, in order to fabricate new, un-differentiated genetic material. For researchers battling such diseases as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and paralysis all around the world, such a possibility began to hint at countless opportunities for genetic regeneration as a form of treatment. To the world, the refinement of methods cloning adult stem cells presented nothing less than the prospect of improving human longevity.
As many controversies as this seemed to solve, specifically regarding the actual feasibility of cloning, it seemed to spark just as many. Today, this well-publicized and politicized issue is no closer to resolution, with advocates actively pursing stem-cell research and associated medical concepts such as embryonic stem cell research, somatic cell nuclear transfer cloning and a number of infertility relief methods to be considered herein. In the public, prominent advocates of stem cell research have helped to foster a media impression of the process as a potentially beneficial avenue of medical evolution which must be investigated. Among them, 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate and Senator John Kerry made this a key point of divergence between himself and the incumbent Bush, who would ultimately win a narrow victory to hold his office. Nonetheless, the division touched off widespread public debate in the U.S. And in Europe, where religious opponents of abortion vociferously demanded government action to prevent abuses in scientific experimentation. The other side of the debate was inflated by the high-profile cases of the late actor Christopher Reeve who, paralyzed in a horse-riding accident, became an outspoken supporter of stem cell research and Nancy Reagan, whose husband former President Ronald Reagan endured the affliction of Alzheimer's disease in his remaining years. And with the approach of the 2008 election between Republic candidate John McCain and then-Senator Obama, Parkinson sufferer and well-liked actor Michael J. Fox entered into a very public feud with conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh on the subject, revealing the intense emotions clouding both sides. This also created an ongoing media campaign endorsing increased federal funding for the field.
Religious leaders throughout the world though have had a significant impact on both the way the process is understood and the way that the media reports upon it. Opponents cite the dangers which this movement presents to a myriad of medical, spiritual and practical interests, seeking in various ways to control, limit or eliminate a shift toward popular use of such methods. A consideration is warranted, therefore, of the scientific implications, the political ramifications and the ethical underpinnings inherent to the dilemma over stem cell research. In an evaluation of all these, it becomes evident that stem-cell research, while an as yet unresolved discipline, may point the way to many indispensable medical and scientific opportunities which could better the living standards of mankind. This echoes what is generally purported by the media, the majority of popular opinion and the perceptions of many world leaders outside of the United States. Specifically, it is generally understood that though embryonic stem cell research may always be faced with the pressure of its divisiveness, evidence illustrates that adult stem-cell research may currently be the best means to improving our collective faculties for medical care and the alleviation of human suffering.
At this stage though, the only reliable way to clone adaptable genetic material is to utilize embryonic stem cells. Derived as they are from discarded human embryos, the use of such has ignited ongoing moral quandaries, informed often by religious and political beliefs. This impasse has tied inextricably the stem-cell debate to the abortion debate, causing nations to align legislatively according to institutional views on the right-to-life contest.
In spite of this, there are no internationally proposed laws providing parameters to this unsettled debate. Likewise, there are currently only a few national legislative efforts that have successfully established protection for the embryos which can be harvested for the creation of stem-cell lines. In the United States, for example, President Bush's 2001 withdrawal of the possibility of future funding for such processes would be a major step in preventing future research through the use of embryonic stem cells. The subsequent legislative effort undertaken by Congress to reverse the restrictions created by Bush's 2001 bill, attempting to reflect an apparent public interest in moving forward on the medical possibilities of stem cell research, would result in a presidential veto. For years, this would bering research on embryos to a veritable standstill the U.S. The Congressional bill had sought to alleviate "the presidential limit on the number of embryonic stem-cell lines that can be used in federally funded research. Another promotes research using other forms of stem cells that do not require destroying human embryos. And a third aims to preempt research on embryos from "fetal farms," where human embryos are created for research." (Chaddock, 1) This may have qualified as a positive step of bringing into closer identification U.S. policy with world sentiment and even media comprehension of the issue.
But public policy under the Bush administration had had the effect of seeking to align itself more closely with pro-life movement and Christian Right-Wing voting constituency, where the emphasis is placed on a biblical definition for the sanctity of human life. President Bush's support of limiting parameters around the expansion of stem-cell research was ideologically concurrent with the prevailing views of many of his supporters in the public, in Washington, D.C. And in the lobbyist communities that had rallied around him. Thus, during the last eight years, the nation's policy had taken on a decidedly protectionist approach to the implementation of new and unproved medical technology. It is apparent in America's historical response to stem-cell research that it fears the prospects opened up by the process for the harvesting and exploitation of human embryos as well as the de-legitimization of the human individual through what religious leaders see as the blasphemous endeavor of cloning, in addition to the fears raised about the liberalization of abortion laws.
During the declaredly pro-life Bush Administration, the United States continued its relatively resistant legislative initiative against the expansion of stem-cell research altogether. Running afoul of public opinion, President Bush's decision to veto the aforementioned Congressional Bill, passed by the House of Representatives, indicates that nation's leadership at the time was most concerned with the implications to the world of the medical process's effect on human identity and the protection of the unborn. "By defying the Republican-controlled Congress, which had sent him legislation that would have overturned research restrictions he imposed five years ago, Mr. Bush re-inserted himself forcefully into a moral, scientific and political debate." (Stolberg, 1) This would be, in a sense, one of the most salient attempts to extend the pro-life agenda through the presidential office.
In an article published by the London Times at the time, the Bush veto was taken to task by various public figures. "Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society in London, said that Mr. Bush's veto was "slowing down the global effort to develop therapies for a range of diseases and illnesses . . . that could eventually help millions of patients in the U.S. And the rest of the world." (Reid, 1) it seems at present that the impetus for moving forward in order to improve our overall capacity as a species to treat various medical ailments bears a more populous appeal than do the declaimed moral virtues of restricting the practice.
Still, the previous eight years have been a significant setback to the U.S. As a contributor to the research, with an absence of funding decimating the resources available to practicing research institutions. As Tansey (2009) would denote in the run up to his election, "Obama, even if he changes the policy, may still be powerless to send much more money to stem cell researchers anytime soon because he will be taking office amid a historic global financial crisis. The U.S. government already will have committed a stunning $8 trillion to rescue the financial system." (Tansey, 1) This is the denote that at present, though the political tenor is beginning to shift more to the benefit of stem cell research, there remains a notable set of obstacles before the United States if it is to help push forward the boundaries of medical science. And with great certainty, we may denote that the religious communities…