PRESIDENT Obama’s decision this week to reverse George W Bush’s 2001 veto on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research has, predictably, drawn fire from the Vatican.
Monsignor Rino Fisichella, described as a “top Vatican official for bioethics” in this report yesterday slammed Obama’s decision to fund broader research into stem cells.
Fisichella, who heads the Pontifical Academy for Life, was quoted by Italy’s ANSA news agency as saying that “some drug companies, or some economic interests” influenced the decision.
Scientists hope to use embryonic stem cells to regenerate diseased cells in those suffering a variety of fatal or debilitating diseases. Former President Bush had limited the use of taxpayer money allowed for the research, saying it required the destruction of embryos and was therefore morally wrong.
On Monday, Obama said he was ending what he believed was “a false choice between sound science and moral values,” adding that the research shows great potential and that “with proper guidelines and strict oversight, the perils can be avoided.
The US Bishops’ Conference has also criticised the move and the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano newspaper ran an article reiterating the Catholic Church’s position, which holds that embryos must be considered human beings.
The article said that protecting embryos should be:
The basis of a real democracy, capable of recognizing the equality of all men and of avoiding any unjust discrimination based on their development or health.
Commenting on Obama’s decision, the Guardian said yesterday:
Mr Obama has made few more important changes than this in his seven weeks in the White House. With one mighty bound, the United States has rejoined the 21st century.
Yesterday’s decision is good news for American science and thus, because of the reach of American research and American businesses, good news for the world too. US foundations and states including California are already heavily invested in cutting-edge stem cell research in the United States and elsewhere. Results are already on the threshold of spectacular in stem cell research affecting spinal and eye conditions. The glittering prizes of cures for Parkinson’s and cancer remain further off. But there is no question that the deployment of federal funds, especially in this economic climate, is a lantern of hope for the suffering of millions in every nation on the planet.