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Reaction mixed to stem cell decision

Like many scientists, Dr. Curt Freed was grateful Bush's decision didn't go further in limiting stem cell research.  

(CNN) -- While one researcher called it a "good first step," others in the medical community expressed concern over President Bush's restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

"Overall I'm very optimistic and I think this is a good first step in the direction of allowing some research to move forward," said Dr. John McDonald, director of the Spinal Cord Injury Unit at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.

"This is obviously dramatically better than if they refused to fund anything," he said.

Dr. Steve Miles, a professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics, was less enthusiastic.

"It will probably delay some lifesaving techniques," said Miles, who expected Bush's decision would be less restrictive. He grouped the decision with Bush's approach to other issues, including global warming.

"It's ideology first, science in the back seat," he said.

Dr. Curt Freed, a stem cell researcher from the University of Colorado, suggested the outcome could have been worse for such research.

"Certainly if he had prohibited funding it would have been terrible," he said on CNN. "On the other hand the restriction of the research to the existing stem cells could be a big problem."

Scientists believe stem cell research could lead to treatment of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Although the work could continue with private funding, advocates say federal money would allow the work to progress faster.

Dobson: "Although we grieve the loss of babies ... these cells are there. I think we can live with that."  

There also was a split among opponents of abortion.

"There's a lot here that I can agree with, and I give the president's decision a thumbs up," said James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family. "I think he found a good solution for this."

"Although we grieve the loss of babies that were sacrifices for cells that now exist, they are now gone, and these cells are there, and I think we can live with that." Other conservatives were distressed by the decision.

"This is a very sad thing because many people that helped elect him strongly believed he was pro-life," said Father Joseph Howard, executive director of the American Bioethics Advisory Commission. "He knows those cells were obtained by killing a person, and that makes him complicit in an illicit action."

• Center for Bioethics
• American Bioethics Advisory Commission
• Washington University School of Medicine

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