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Stem Cell Research Limits

Publication Date: 
March 09, 2009

Professor of Law and Genetics Henry T. "Hank" Greely is interviewed on KCBS Radio for a segment regarding President Obama's decision to lift restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research. An excerpt of the interview is below:

KCBS: Hank Greely, Professor of Law and Genetics at Stanford, if we could bring you into the conversation as well. The President also wants to announce some safeguards through the National Institutes of Health so science is, what he calls, protected from political interference. What kind of changes do you see on the horizon as a result of this?

Greely: It’s always hard to predict what the news is going to be in an hour, but I think the Obama administration is taking very seriously the concerns that were raised by Bush administration actions about science in a whole host of areas, from stem cell research to global warming. I don’t know what he’ll say specifically about protecting NIH from political interference, but I think we’ll see broad statements about the integrity of science and lawmakers listening to scientists rather than dictating to them.

KCBS: Are there other areas that you see besides stem cells where politics have interfered in science, other areas of medicine in particular?

Greely: There have been a number of scandals at the FDA, which had been a notably apolitical organization, but during the Bush administration became more and more politicized with respect to the approvals of drugs or the disapprovals of drugs having to do with contraception or abortion. I think we’ll see some FDA changes in particular.


KCBS: Let me go back to Hank Greely from Stanford for one final question. This whole nexus of politics and science, this genie is not going to get stuffed back into the bottle this quickly is it?

Greely: Not overall. Science is affecting our lives and is involved in our lives in too many important ways and those ways are only increasing. To the extent science has something important to tell us about who we are and how we live, that’s going to raise objections. So I think there will continue to be tensions between science and the law or science and politics. Personally, I think the Obama approach is going to provide a lot better science and better policies than the conflict that was really fired and gendered by the Bush Administration.