As Bush Celebrates ‘Sanctity Of Human Life Day,’ NIH Official Says Stem Cell Policy Is Blocking Cures

President Bush yesterday issued a formal White House proclamation declaring January 21 to be “National Sanctity of Human Life Day, 2007.”

National Sanctity of Human Life Day helps foster a culture of life and reinforces our commitment to building a compassionate society that respects the value of every human being. …

One of our society’s challenges today is to harness the power of science to ease human suffering without sanctioning practices that violate the dignity of human life. With the right policies, we can continue to achieve scientific progress while living up to our ethical and moral responsibilities.

On the very same day, Story Landis, the National Institutes of Health official overseeing President Bush’s restrictive embryonic stem cell policy, suggested that Bush’s approach is delaying life-saving cures in “an unusually blunt assessment for an executive branch official.”


When Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) asked her how the policy was affecting medical research, she said, “We are missing out on possible breakthroughs.” The ability to work on newly derived stem cell colonies — precluded from federal funding under the Bush plan — “would be incredibly important,” she added.

Landis also declared that “science works best when scientists can pursue all avenues of research. If the cure for Parkinson’s disease or juvenile diabetes lay behind one of four doors, wouldn’t you want the option to open all four doors at once instead of one door?”

The promise of stem cell research is clear. In just the last six months, media reports have noted that embryonic stem cells have been used to help paralyzed rats walk; to create T-cells, which could lead to a cure for AIDS; to slow vision loss in rats; to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in rats; to create insulin-secreting cells, which could be used to treat diabetes; and to make a vaccine that protects mice from lung cancer; to create cardiovascular “precursor” cells, which could be used to treat heart disease.

President Bush says he plans to veto the stem cell research bill passed last week by the House of Representatives.