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On August 9, 2001 in his first prime-time address, President George W. Bush announced his decision that federal funds could be used to support research on specified embryonic stem cells. Although the speech did not end the debate on this controversial issue, reaction to the decision makes clear that nearly everyone agrees on one thing -- stem cells appear to have tremendous potential for developing treatments for a wide range of diseases, including the neurological disorders among which the ataxias are numbered.
Printed below are key excerpts from the President's address, followed by a summary of some of the key questions that continue to be raised on this issue.
"My administration must decide whether to allow federal funds, your tax dollars, to be used for scientific research on stem cells derived from human embryos. A large number of these embryos already exist. They are the product of a process called in vitro fertilization, which helps so many couples conceive children. When doctors match sperm and egg to create life outside the womb, they usually produce more embryos than are planted in the mother. Once a couple successfully has children, or if they are unsuccessful, the additional embryos remain frozen in laboratories. Some will not survive during long storage; others are destroyed. A number have been donated to science and used to create privately funded stem cell lines. And a few have been implanted in an adoptive mother and born, and are today healthy children. …