Rome

Law passed legalizing stem-cell research and treatment

Italian Senate votes 259-8 in favor of law

Law passed legalizing stem-cell research and treatment

Rome, May 22 - The Italian Senate overwhelmingly approved a law on Wednesday that legalizes stem-cell therapy and research. With 259 yes votes, two nays and six abstaining, the new law permits those who have begun stem-cell treatments to continue them. The law also budgets three million euros for an 18-month stem-cell therapy research programme sponsored by the health ministry, set to begin July 1. The Istituto Superiore di Sanita', a state health institution for research and education, will coordinate research, and work with the Italian pharmaceutical agency AIFA and the National Transplant Centre. The law also postpones closure of judiciary psychiatric hospitals until April 1, 2014. The stem-cell law officially approves what is already the practice in at least one Italian hospital, despite previous court rulings against stem-cell therapy. A toddler at the Brescia hospital in northern Italy has been undergoing stem-cell treatment which the government grudgingly approved of in March. At the time, the health minister said it would be risky to the child's health to stop treatments that were underway. Stem-cell treatment, which is legal in Italy in life-threatening instances, is contentious because it sometimes involves the destruction of a human embryo. Italy banned the use of embryos in stem-cell research in 2004, but in 2007 Italian researchers obtained adult stem-cells which they said were as effective as those obtained from embryos.

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