New Rules for Stem Cell Research: Research Ethics in the News

On Monday, July 6, 2009 Dr. Raynard S. Kington, acting director of the NIH, announced that the Obama administration had released the new rules on federal funding for stem cell research (Guidelines, 2009). The rules implement Executive Order 13505, Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells. The new guidelines expand the number of potential cell lines available for use in federally funded research. The Washington Post estimates that 700 embryonic stem cell lines are currently in existence. Researchers may seek approval to use these cell lines, if the cells were acquired from embryos created for reproductive purposes and contributed by properly informed, consenting donors.

The New York Times quotes ethicist, R. Alta Charo, applauding the new rules as “a huge step forward”. Jonathon Moreno at Science Progress, also supports the change, declaring that the new rules are “a welcome reprieve for scientists, advocates, and patients who saw research opportunities contract under the eight years of the Bush administration’s distorted policy”. Moreno also notes: “the new guidelines are similar to those proposed in the Center for American Progress/Science Progress report, ‘A Life Sciences Crucible: Stem Cell Research and Innovation Done Responsibly and Ethically,’ published in January”. Among the critics of stem cell research, Richard Doerflinger of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lamented in The Washington Post: “For the first time in history, the federal government will encourage the destruction of human life at a very early stage for federally funded research”. For a wider range of reactions, one might wish to browse the 49,000 comments a version of guidelines received when an earlier draft was posted for public comment on April 23, 2009.


National Institutes of Health (NIH). National Institutes of Health Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research. NIH, 2009.

Executive Order 13505, Removing barriers to responsible scientific research involving human stem cells. The White House, March 9, 2009.

Vedantam S. Rules on stem cell research are eased. The Washington Post. July 7, 2009.

Harris G. Rules will allow financing for old stem cell lines. The New York Times. July 6, 2009.

Moreno J. Back to the future: final stem cell rules support ethics and innovation. Science Progress, July 6, 2009.

National Institutes of Health (NIH). Listing of comments on Draft NIH Human Stem Cell Guidelines. NIH, 2009.

Other Stories on the New Stem Cell Guidelines

Shapiro J. New funding rules issued on stem cell research. NPR Morning Edition, July 7, 2009.

SNAP Analysis: Stem cell rules mean big change up to Congress. Reuters, July 6, 2009.


The Human Stem Cell Study Group, Indiana University Center for Bioethics. 2001-2002.

Research Ethics and Stem Cells. Stem Cell Information: The National Institutes of Health.

Insoo Hyun, “Stem Cells,” in From Birth to Death and Bench to Clinic: The Hastings Center Bioethics Briefing Book for Journalists, Policymakers, and Campaigns, ed. Mary Crowley (Garrison, NY: The Hastings Center, 2008), 159-162. Online at:

Siegel A. Ethics of stem cell research. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Online at:

Other Research Ethics News:

JAMA Conflicts Policy: now you see it, now you don’t. David Armstrong, WSJ Health Blog. July 10, 2009.

Helping science, making money. [Review of O’Meara A. Chasing Medical Miracles. Walker, 2009.] Scott Gottlieb, The Wall Street Journal. July 10, 2009.

Pick to lead health agency draws praise and some concern. Gardiner Harris, The New York Times. July 8, 2009.

International Research Standards: Xenotransplantation. Chris MacDonald, The Research Ethics Blog. July 6, 2009.

Life after fraud. Alison McCook, The Scientist.  July 1, 2009; 23(7):28.

Paying egg donors for research: in defense of New York’s landmark decision. Bonnie Steinbock, Bioethics Forum. July 1, 2009.

Better ethics, cheaper drugs. The Boston Globe. July 1, 2009.

Grant system leads cancer researchers to play it safe. Gina Kolata, The New York Times. June 27, 2009.

State stem cell board needs overhaul, group says. Sandy Kleffman, San Jose Mercury News. June 26, 2009.

Obama’s Bioethics Commission: Providing Practical Policy Options. John H. Evans, Bioethics Forum. June 26, 2009.


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