Lawmakers Wrestle Over Stem Cell Research
Special Report - May 12, 2008
Despite the increasing number of successful medical treatments using adult stem cells, and the recent discovery of a non-destructive method to generate embryonic-like stem cells without destroying human life, some state and congressional leaders continue to push for taxpayer funding of destructive embryonic stem cell research. At a May 8 hearing in Washington, D.C., the Subcommittee on Health of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee met to discuss stem cell research. Unfortunately, some members used the hearing to promote legislation to overturn the August 2001 executive order by President George W. Bush that currently restricts federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Present restrictions only allow federal funding for research on existing embryonic stem cell lines. Subcommittee member Representative Diana Degette (D-CO) said she plans to reintroduce legislation in Congress to lift the federal ban.
Although the majority of witnesses before the committee urged support for destructive research involving human embryos, subcommittee members did hear testimony from adult stem cell recipient, Douglas Rice, a 62-year-old heart patient. Rice, who has Congestive Heart Failure and Diabetes, and has suffered several heart attacks, explained how he traveled overseas to Thailand to undergo an angioplasty procedure using his own adult stem cells. He urged Congress to provide more funding and research for adult stem cell treatments. “The Federal Government has spent millions of dollars on Embryonic Stem Cells, but not one person has been treated and the animals tested often get tumors,” Rice said. “By some estimates over 400,000 people with various cancers and other diseases have been successfully treated and most are alive to talk about the Adult Stem Cell treatment using their own stem cells or ones from cord blood stem cells.”
Also testifying in favor of continued support for adult stem cell research was Dr. John Fraser, a scientist at Cytori Therapeutics, Inc., a stem cell company in California. Dr. Fraser, who said he has spent his entire research career studying adult stem cells, cited several examples of successful adult stem cell treatments. “The natural role of adult stem cells in repair and regeneration makes them ideally suited for clinical use. This has been proven in tens of thousands of bone marrow transplant patients in the last 40 years,” Fraser said during his testimony. “This paradigm is now increasingly being repeated as other adult cell types associated with repair and regeneration are being applied in different diseases.”
The issue of destructive embryonic stem cell research may well be raised this year in North Carolina, as well. The North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes for the 2008 “Short” Session on May 13, and lawmakers could consider a bill that would allow state taxpayer dollars to be used for research involving the destruction of human embryos. The bill, HB 1837Stem Cell Research Health & Wellness Act, passed the State House last year but was not considered in the State Senate.
“Taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund the destruction of human life at any stage,” said North Carolina Family Policy Council vice president and director of government relations, John Rustin. “Congressional and state lawmakers should utilize taxpayer funds to support the most effective and proven means of stem cell research. Scientific gains resulting in successful treatments and cures for human ailments have only been made with stem cells derived from ethical sources, such as adult tissue, cord blood, placenta and amniotic fluid,” Rustin concluded.
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.