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HUMAN STEM CELL RESEARCH

Media reports, 2005 & 2006

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bullet2005-MAR-01: USA: Bill to widen stem-cell research: Congressperson Charles Bass (R-NH) has introduced a bill to Congress that would repeal President Bush's restriction on human embryonic stem cell research. The President's restriction limited research to certain stem cell lines established before 2001-AUG-09. These are now almost all defunct and unusable. 1
bullet2005-MAY-08: World: UN approves declaration against therapeutic and reproductive cloning: By a vote of 84 to 34, the UN General Assembly adopted a non-binding declaration calling on nations to enact legislation to prohibit both therapeutic and reproductive cloning. Belgium, Singapore, the United Kingdom and some other countries in which therapeutic cloning projects are active said that they would no comply with the declaration.
bullet2005-MAY-19 to 24: USA: Federal bill to permit government funded stem cell research debated in congress: Moderate Republicans in the House are joining with most Democrats to support bill HR 810 -- the "Stem Cell Reserch Enhancement Act of 2005" It would allow frozen embryos at fertility clinics which are scheduled to be destroyed to be used in stem cell research either in government labs or in other locations funded by government grants. Republican leaders have told representatives that the bill is considered "a vote of conscience;" they are free to vote either way.
bulletRep. Michael Castle, (R-DE) said: "At some point the decision is made to dispose of the embryos. They're not going to be used in the process anymore, and in that case it either becomes hospital waste or it's going to be used for research if our bill passes."
bulletRep. Michael Pence, R-IN said:  "I think it's morally wrong to take the tax dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use it to fund research that they find morally objectionable."
bulletOrrin Hatch, R-UT) said: "It would be a lot better to utilize them for the benefit of mankind — to alleviate pain, suffering and disease. And I think anybody who really looks at it has got to say, 'you know, that's pro-life too'."
bulletPresident Bush said: "I made [it] very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life, I'm against that. Therefore if the bill does that, I will veto it."
bulletRep. Jim Ramstad, (R-MN) said: "To reduce this issue to an abortion issue is a horrible injustice to 100 million Americans suffering the ravages of diabetes, spinal cord paralysis, heart disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, cancer, MS [multiple sclerosis], Lou Gehrig's disease and other fatal, debilitating diseases."
Occasionally, a couple will return to their fertility clinic and arrange to have some of their embryos thawed and implanted in the woman's uterus. In very rare cases -- on the order of a dozen per year in the U.S. -- couples release their frozen embryos for other couples to "adopt." However, the vast majority of frozen embryos are eventually discarded. Under present legislation, they can be incinerated or flushed down the drain. But they cannot be used to provide stem cells for research. 2,3,4
bullet2005-MAY-24: Bill passes House: House bill HR810 passed with a vote of 238 to 194. A similar bill S 471 has been introduced in the Senate. The house vote is insufficient to override the expected Presidential veto. 4
bullet2005-AUG-01: Arlen Specter and Bill Frist promote use of stem cells: Senators Arlen Specter and Bill Frist, both Republicans, support the research use of stem cells from surplus embryos in fertility clinics. Specter indicates that at least 62 senators support his bill which would lift federal funding of research that President Bush put in place in 2001-AUG. Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader surprised religious and social conservatives when he announced his support for modifying the president's policy. He noted that only 22 lines out of the 78 originally foreseen by the administration are still eligible for federal funding. Some of these are deteriorating and/or contaminated. He said:

"the limitation put into place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases....embryonic stem cells uniquely hold specific promise for some therapies and potential cures that adult stem cells just cannot provide.....It's not just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science."

The bill was expected to be voted upon by the senate in 2005-fall. However, it was still stalled in the Senate by 2006-MAY-24, one year after it was passed by the House. President Bush has promised to veto the bill. There does not appear to be a 2/3 majority in either the House or Senate to override that veto. The fate of hundreds of millions of Americans who suffer or will suffer from debilitating diseases hangs in the balance. 5,6

bullet2005-AUG-02: Bill Frist attacked by religious conservatives: Frisk portrays himself as a pro-life Republican. However, he appears to differentiate between human life -- in the form of a pre-embryo -- and a human person whose life should be protected. Unlike most pro-lifers, he seems to believe that human personhood is achieved after, not at, conception. He was severely attacked by many religious and social conservative groups:

LifeSiteNews, a pro-life group stated that Frisk:

 "...broke radically both with President Bush and his own past statements by supporting a bill to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research." They quoted Frist as saying: "I am pro-life. I believe human life begins at conception. It is at this moment that the organism is complete -- yes, immature -- but complete. An embryo is nascent human life. It's genetically distinct. And it's biologically human…. And accordingly, the human embryo has moral significance and moral worth. It deserves to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. I also believe that embryonic stem cell research should be encouraged and supported."

James Dobson, founder and chairperson of Focus on the Family said:

"Most distressing is that, in making his announcement, Senator Frist calls himself a defender of the sanctity of human life — even though the research he now advocates results, without exception, in the destruction of human life.....there will never be a sufficient number of new stem-cell lines to satisfy the sometimes unquenchable thirst for federal money to fund pet projects of researchers. A morally sound line must be drawn at the beginning of this journey into stem-cell research: that no human life is sacrificed for possible or proven scientific gain – period."

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council commented: "It is unfortunate that Senator Frist would capitulate to the biotech industry." 7

bullet2006-MAR-25: Germany: Scientists obtain stem cells from mice testicles: Scientists have been able to collect spermatologonial stem cells from the testicles of male mice. These are the cells that generate spermatozoa. The cells are then transformed into what appear to be embryonic stem cells. Scientists have used to them to grow liver cells, muscle cells, pancreas cells, dopamine-secreting nerve cells and various kinds of heart cells. If the technique will also work on humans, then all males may be able to generate unlimited amounts of stem cells to regenerate tissues to repair defective organs. Study leader Gerd Hasenfuss, a cardiologist at Georg-August-University of Goettingen, said: "We may not be as successful in getting the same result in humans as in mice. But I am very much convinced that this is the basis for a therapeutic strategy. I am optimistic." Women, however, may be cut out of the process unless some similar technique is useable on ova. 8
bullet2006-MAY-24: US: Bill is still stalled in Senate: On the one-year anniversary of the passage of House Bill HR810, the bill is still stalled in the Senate. A recent poll indicates that 72% of American adults support stem cell research. In the meantime, private labs that function outside of government restrictions are flourishing in the U.S. 9
bullet2006-JUN-29: US: Senate to consider stem cell bills: Senate leaders from both parties agreed to schedule a vote on a package of bills. One bill would allow federal funding of research on embryos that have been slated for destruction at fertility clinics. In response, White House spokesman Ken Lisaius said:

"The president does not believe we are forced to choose between science and ethics....[the legislation] crosses an important moral line. [The president] would veto legislation that crosses this moral line."

Sean Tipton, president of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research said:

"We applaud the majority leader on his exemplary leadership for bringing this up. We are confident that the votes are there."

However, both houses appear to be unable to garner sufficient votes to overrule a presidential veto.

Included with bill HR 810 which has been passed by the House are two additional bills which conservatives are anxious to pass:

bulletOne encourages the National Institutes of Health to fund research that might permit cells to be created that resemble embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos.
bulletThe other, the "Fetus Farming Prohibition Act," would make it a crime for anyone to trade in tissues from fetuses that were conceived and aborted expressly for research purposes. 10

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bullet2006-JUN-30: World: Catholic stem cell researchers should be excommunicated: Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo heads the Pontifical Council for the Family. The council proposes family-related policy for the church. He said in an interview that "Destroying an embryo is equivalent to abortion. Excommunication is valid for the women, the doctors and researchers who destroy embryos." The New York Times states that:

"The Rev. Brian Johnstone, a moral theologian at the Alphonsian Academy in Rome, cautioned that it was unlikely that the church would formally adopt a final position next week. 'Clarification of such a delicate point of this importance is unlikely to be made at such a large gathering'." 11

bullet2006-JUL-07: USA: U.S. Senate to consider stem cell bill: The Senate is expected to vote on HR 810, a bill to increase embryonic stem cell research using embryos discarded and destined for destruction in fertility clinics. However, even if it passes, it has little chance of being signed into law. President Bush has promised to veto it.
bullet2006-JUL-18: USA: Senate passes stem cell bill: The U.S. Senate voted 63 to 37 -- an unusually large margin -- to relax President Bush's ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. President Bush vetoed it the next day -- the first veto of his term.
bullet2006-NOV-10: U.S./UK: Major breakthrough in overcoming blindness: A joint Anglo-American medical team at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, England has successfully transplanted adult stem cells from the eyes of normal mouse fetuses into the eyes of blind mice. The stem cells developed into mature photoreceptors in the retina and transmitted signals to the brain. The scientists believe that clinical trials on blind people could start in ten years. Scientists hope that they will eventually be able to use embryonic stem cells or adult stem cells from within the person's eye and avoid the problem of tissue rejection. 12
bullet2006-NOV-10: UK: Major breakthrough in treating heart attacks: A new procedure which extracts adult stem cells from a heart attack patients bone marrow and injecting them into their heart has been pioneered by British doctors. They hope that the procedure will boost survival rates, reduce repeated hospital admissions and prevent heart failure.

Professor John Martin said: "This is the first time in the world that stem cells have been used to stop the damage of acute heart attack. It is very exciting. We feel we can make a considerable reduction in deaths and suffering from heart failure."

Dr Anthony Mathur said: "If we can demonstrate improvement in the quality of life of patients then this will be a significant step forward in the treatment of heart disease. Because the cells are taken from the patient themselves there are minimal ethical issues surrounding this procedure. There is also less likelihood of rejection complications." 13

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Related essays on this web site:

Cloning and stem cell research are unrelated lines of research. However, they both start with an ovum and initially use some of the same techniques.

bulletWhen does human personhood begin?
bulletHuman cloning
bulletPre-implantation genetic diagnosis
bulletTherapeutic cloning

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References used in the above essay:

  1. "Congressman introduces legislation to kill more embryos," Washington Update, Family Research Council, 2005-FEB-28.
  2. "Proposed stem cell bill divides Republicans: Some lawmakers support federal funding of research on embryos," MSNBC, 2005-MAY-19, at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/
  3. "Bush threatens veto on stem cell research bill," CNN.com, Inside Politics, 2005-MAY-20, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  4. "House passes stem cell research bills. Under threat of Bush veto, legislation spurs emotional debate," CNN.com, Inside Politics, 2005-MAY-24, at: http://edition.cnn.com/
  5. "Senators at Odds Over Chance of Stem-Cell Bill Getting Past Bush," Citizen Link, Focus on the Family, 2005-AUG091.
  6. "A Matter of Science," The Washington Post, 2005-JUL-30, at: http://www.camradvocacy.org/
  7. "Life and Family Groups React with Avalanche of Outrage to Frist Betrayal. Warn would-be presidential candidate of political consequences," LifeSiteNews, 2005-AUG-02. Their home page is at: http://www.lifesitenews.com
  8. Rick Weiss, "Embryonic Stem Cell Success: In Mouse Experiment, Cells From Testes Are Transformed," Washington Post, 2006-MAR-25, Page A11, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  9. Rick Weiss, "Proponents Press Senate on Stem Cell Research Measure," 2006-MAY-24, Washington Post, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  10. Rick Weiss, "Senate to Consider Stem Cell Proposals: Fertility Patients Could Donate Embryos," Washington Post, 2006-JUN-30, Page A05, at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/
  11. Elisabeth Rosenthal, "Researchers may face church's ire," New York Times, 2006-JUN-30, at: http://www.startribune.com/
  12. "Breakthrough raises hope for blindness cure," Good News Blog, 2006-NOV-10, at: http://www.goodnewsblog.com/
  13. "Stem cell cure for heart attacks," Good News Blog, 2006-NOV-10, at: http://www.goodnewsblog.com/

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Copyright © 2005 & 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2006-NOV-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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