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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Advantage, access, and anticipation : the impact of policy, ethics, law, and economics on stem cell research Scott, Christopher Thomas


This program of work examines the effects of policy, ethics, and economics on the emerging field of stem cell research. The research seeks to understand how these factors influence the actions of stem cell scientists working in the United States and other jurisdictions, and collectively, these how these actions change the trajectory of a new biomedical field. In this work, I ask three fundamental questions: 1) In the United States, what are the political, social, and historical contexts that affect the deliberations of stem cell scientists? 2) How do stem cell scientists and other stakeholders describe their social worlds and their decisions as they grapple with policy, ethics, law, and economics in a rapidly evolving and controversial area of bioscience? And, 3) How do these individual and collective actions change the trajectory of stem cell research and experimental treatments for disability and disease? An approach using mixed methods is used to qualitatively and quantitatively examine these questions in four studies. Results of the first study describe the history of stem cell research in the United States, showing how the field is defined through its ethical, social, scientific and political discourse. The second, quantitative, project probes how embryonic stem cell scientists obtain and use essential research tools to do their work, and how policy can impact international trends in productivity. How stakeholders such as patients, scientists, and government officials communicate the results of stem cell research through the popular media forms the basis of the third quantitative effort. The final study is devoted to an in-depth ethical analysis of the world's first clinical trial using human embryonic stem cells. Overall, the results from this research provide new evidence that policy makers, patients, scientists, and stakeholders can use for navigating what is arguably called science's most promising frontier.

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