The substantial public support for hES cell research and the growing trend by many nonfederal funding agencies and state legislatures to support this field requires a set of guidelines to provide a framework for hES cell research. In the absence of the oversight that would come with unrestricted federal funding of this research, these guidelines will offer reassurance to the public and to Congress that the scientific community is attentive to ethical concerns and is capable of self-regulation while moving forward with this important research.
To help ensure that these guidelines are taken seriously, stakeholders in hES cell research—sponsors, funding sources, research institutions, relevant oversight committees, professional societies, and scientific journals, as well as investigators—should develop policies and practices that are consistent with the principles inherent in these guidelines. Funding agencies, professional societies, journals, and institutional review panels can provide valuable community pressure and impose appropriate sanctions to ensure compliance. For example, ESCROs and IRBs should require evidence of compliance when protocols are reviewed for renewal, funding agencies should assess compliance when reviewing applications for support, and journals should require that evidence of compliance accompanies publication of results.
As individual states and private entities move into hES cell research, it will be important to initiate a national effort to provide a formal context in which the complex moral and oversight questions associated with this work can be addressed on a continuing basis. Both the state of hES cell research and clinical practice and public policy surrounding these topics are in a state of flux and are likely to be so for several years. Therefore, the committee believes that a national body should be established to assess periodically the adequacy of the policies and guidelines proposed in this document and to provide a forum for a continuing discussion of issues involved in hES cell research. New policies and standards may be appropriate for issues that cannot now be foreseen. The organization that sponsors this body should be politically independent and without conflicts of interest, should be respected in the lay and scientific communities, and able to call on suitable expertise to support this effort.