If you’re confused about the hoo-hah concerning President Obama’s decision last week to lift the ban on federal funding for stem cell research using human embryos, you’re not alone. Even Bill Clinton is confused too..when he mentioned several times in a CNN interview on March 11 that it was ok to research embryos if they’re not fertilized.
It does appear that he does require more lessons on sexual biology and reproduction - if you recall, he did try to convince the world several years ago that fellatio was not a form of sex!
By definition, embryos are the result of an egg from the ovary being fertilised by a sperm. Most kids can tell you that. But not many will be able to say what stem cells are. Simply put, stem cells are primitive cells capable of multiplying & morphing to eventually form any organ in the human body. Hence the growing interest in medical research, because a damaged kidney could be replaced by growing a new one.
There are two sources for stem-cells: adult stem-cells (derived from adult cells like the bone-marrow) and embryonic stem-cells (derived from embryos). The latter is preferred as the yield of stem-cells is much higher but it means embryos need to be destroyed. In other words, the beginnings of a human life is terminated just to produce stem-cells. Which is the main reason why former President Bush did not allow any research funding to be given for this source of stem-cells, on moral and ethical grounds. More of the stem-cell controversy here.
Footnote: the interviewer in the CNN programme above is none other than Dr Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent who was also Obama’s first choice as Surgeon-General before he opted out. Just as well, because he did not correct Clinton’s mistake during the show, despite being a medical doctor himself..