Bush “precooks” bioethical advice panel

Okay, imagine you are the President of the United States. You are against the concept of embryonic stem-cell research. There is a panel of scientists whose job is to advise you on bioethics, including questions of embryonic stem cell research. And two of the preeminent members of the panel are in favor of stem cell research. Do you take their advice?

Well, not if you are President Bush. Instead, you remove the two from the panel and appoint scientists who agree with your point of view. On February 29th, Bush removed Elizabeth Blackburn and William May – both renowned members of the bioethics panel and supporters of embryonic stem cell research – and replaced them with three very conservative scientists: Benajmin Carson, Peter Lawler (who believes that abortion should be illegal) and Diana Schaub (who has called embryonic research “‘the evil of willful destruction of innocent human life'”).

This action by the Bush administration is being roundly reviled in academic circles. “Leonard Zon, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, [said] ‘To me, what’s most important is the idea of discussion, and it seems that there won’t be as much discussion as a result of these appointments.'” Democratic nominee John Kerry stated, “‘But again, you look for the best scientific and bioethical advice. You don’t precook it. That’s what’s important.'”

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