The recommendation, to be finalized next month, concludes that stem cell technology is so promising that the current ban on embryo research "conflicts with several of the ethical goals of medicine, especially healing prevention and research."
Congress should rescind parts of its four-year ban on spending federal money for research on stem cells, President Clinton's top advisory panel on medical ethics says in the draft.
Breakthrough research done by private labs now shows that stem cells taken from human embryos can generate almost any other cell in the body; meaning cells damaged by disease could be replaced.
The National Bioethics Advisory Commission acknowledges the report will generate controversy, but it says the research's promise for the betterment of mankind merits the recommendations.
"This research is allied with a noble cause, and any taint that might attach from the source of the stem cells diminishes in proportion to the potential good which the research may yield," the report says.
The commission recommends a regime of tightly controlled experiments to obtain stem cells from embryos left over from procedures at fertility clinics. They would be used only with the consent of the parents for whom the embryos were created.
Stem cells have been shown in recent years to be building blocks for almost all human tissue. Scientists say the cells' capability to grow into virtually any tissue raises the possibility of growing spare body parts or correcting disorders such as Parkinson's disease or diabetes.
"Millions of Americans live every day with tragic conditions and we need to speed this relief," said Daniel Perry of the Coalition XXX. Perry said the decision would have "a huge impact."
Gary Bauer, a conservative activist who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, urged Clinton to reject the policy. "It can never be acceptable to take an innocent human life and that includes the embryonic stage," Bauer said.
Judy Brown, president of the American Life League, also attacked the commission conclusion.
"There are not two classes of human beings," she said. "The embryo baby is no different than any other human being and should never be subjected to destructive research."
Embryos are destroyed in the process of harvesting stem cells, a reason such research has raised emotional debate in Congress and elsewhere between people on both sides of the abortion question. At least 75 members of Congress have said all stem-cell research violates the money ban, which has been extended annually since its enactment in 1994.