An upcoming bill -- the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2009, by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) -- would codify President Obama's executive order "permitting federal funding of such research within guidelines established by the NIH and would require that they be reviewed periodically," a Washington Post editorial states. According to the Post, the NIH guidelines issued last summer for such research "successfully navigated a minefield of ethical and moral questions," the editorial adds. The editorial says Obama's executive order overturned one issued by President George W. Bush in 2001 that "allowed federal funding only for those stem cell lines already developed," which scientists "ultimately found" were "too few" and of "limited" use.

DeGette's bill would allow couples to donate surplus embryos for research, "as long as they are fully informed of their choices and not compensated" for the embryos, according to the editorial. The Post states that the NIH guidelines "give donors the ability to change their minds 'until the embryos were actually used.'" A panel of NIH scientists and ethicists will examine the procedures and records for stem cells lines developed on or before July 7 in the U.S. and abroad to determine "whether the lines were derived with voluntary informed consent from donors and in a manner consistent with the new rules," according to the editorial.

The editorial continues, "The bill specifically outlaws human cloning," and Congress "already prohibits federal funding for collecting stem cell lines from human embryos, which are destroyed in the process." The NIH guidelines "make it clear that taxpayer money will not be used on lines from embryos created solely for research," the Post says, concluding that the "lifesaving treatments and therapies that could result from stem cell research should not come from crossing this clear moral and ethical boundary" (Washington Post, 10/11).

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