Medical school dean joins call for embryonic stem-cell research law

The dean of Springfield’s Southern Illinois University School of Medicine has joined 80 other medical-school leaders nationwide in urging Congress to approve a law explicitly allowing human, embryonic stem-cell research.

Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey and the other medical-school heads outlined their position in a full-page ad in the Washington Post early this month.

The ad, paid for by the Washington-based Association of American Medical Colleges, calls on Congress to allow human embryonic stem-cell research under the “rigorous ethical guidelines” of the National Institutes of Health.

“The stakes for patients, and the scientists who are working so hard to help them, could not be higher,” the ad states.

Dorsey said he agreed to participate in the ad simply because its language was “reasonable — nothing more, nothing less.”

The AAMC sponsored the ad, which cost more than $40,000, in response to the Aug. 23 ruling of U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth. The judge, based in the District of Columbia, issued a preliminary injunction banning federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

Lamberth’s ruling, which cited a 1996 law that prohibits federal money for research in which an embryo is destroyed, overturned an expansion of embryonic stem-cell funding by President Barack Obama in March 2009.

Obama had lifted former President George W. Bush’s restrictions on federal funding of stem-cell research. Critics of Lamberth’s ruling say it also would have stopped even the limited amount of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research allowed under Bush’s restrictions.

A federal appeals court ruled last week that federal funding of stem-cell research can continue while the court considers an appeal of Lamberth’s decision.

But chief science officer Ann Bonham of the AAMC said a new law is needed for the long term.

Such legislation would codify Obama’s decision so it would be harder for courts to halt scientific progress toward treatments for Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, spinal-cord injuries and other medical problems, Bonham said.

Unless the issue is resolved, she said, “This will have a chilling effect on future research.”

The State Journal-Register

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