Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Stem Cells Around The World

Much controversy surrounds stem cell policy in the United States. The Federal government restricts its funding to stem cell lines to those created prior to a magic date. In response, states, as the "laboratory of federalism", have picked up the baton of stem cell research. California has allocated $3 billion to stem cell research, and begun to set up a cordon sanitaire to prevent contamination by Federal funds, personel, and materials (see The New Quarantine), while Missouri is attempting to amend its state constitution to limit restrictions on stem cell research (see Big Effects of Little Stem Cells and Ev'rythin's Up To Date In Kansas City). But how is law in the rest of the world regulating stem cell research?

According to a map published by the University of Minnesota Medical School, as Caesar said of Gaul, the stem cell world can be divided into three parts:

1. Permissive countries. These include the United Kingdom, Belgium, Sweden, Iran, Israel, India, Singapore, China, Japan, South Korea, and South Africa, whose population totals about 2.7 billion. These countries allow "various embryonic stem cell derivation techniques including somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), also called research or therapeutic cloning. SCNT is the transfer of a cell nucleus from a somatic or body cell into an egg from which the nucleus has been removed".

2. Flexible countries. These include Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, The Netherlands, and Taiwan, whose combined population totals about 700 million. These countries permit "derivations from fertility clinic donations only, excluding SCNT, and often under certain restrictions".

3. Restrictive countries. These include (in order, from most to least restrictive) Austria, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Germany, Italy, and the United States, whose combined population totals about 500 million. The laws of these countries "range from outright prohibition of human embryo research to permitting research on imported embryonic stem cell lines only to permitting research on a limited number of previously established stem cell lines".

Most other countries lack formal legal regulation of stem cells as yet.

Rapidly developing countries form the majority of the "permissive" countries, while developed European countries dominate the list of "restrictive" countries. Currently, at least at the level of national law, the United States has placed itself among the latter.


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