Washington International Law Journal


Bryn E. Floyd


Research using embryonic stem cells may lead to great medical advances because of their ability to differentiate into nearly any type of human tissue. Currently, the United States regulates embryonic stem cell research by limiting the stem cell lines that can be studied using federal money or by scientists working at federally-funded institutions. The states are left to regulate privately funded research, if they choose. This creates a situation in which federally-funded research is severely limited, while private funds may be used to conduct ethically problematic research. In contrast, the Australian Parliament has passed legislation regulating embryonic stem cell research and limiting the sources of new stem cell lines to embryos originally created for infertility treatments but beyond the needs of the person or couple being treated. The Australian laws outline the informed consent procedure required before excess embryos can be donated and set up a regulatory framework to ensure that stem cell research is conducted ethically. The United States should follow Australia's lead and pass legislation that would allow federally-funded researchers to derive new embryonic stem cell lines from excess embryos left over after infertility treatments. This system reaches a compromise between those who oppose stem cell research and those who believe it should be fully supported because of the enormous potential for new medical treatments. Passing legislation similar to Australia's will allow the United States to explore the potential medical benefits of stem cell research, while avoiding the ethical dilemmas that arise when researchers are allowed to create cloned embryos for the sole purpose of deriving new stem cell lines.

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