The house of representatives has just passed H.R. 810, a bipartisan bill authored by Representative Michael Castle (R-Del) and Representative Diana DeGette (D-Col) who reached across the party lines for a final vote of 238-194. Bush, who in his five year presidency has yet to exercise his power to veto, has promised that he will veto this once it comes to his desk. The passage of this bill is significant for several reasons. First, it will expand research activities and research funding by allowing couples to donate their spare or leftover embryos, frozen in infertility clinics, for the development of new embryonic stem cell lines for research purposes. Current U.S. policy allows for federally funded research on existing embryonic stem cell lines which had been created before August of 2001. The rationale is that ethical science and taxpayers’ dollars should not be in the business of creating embryos, human life, for the purpose of destruction. No one would deny that we all began as human embryos. We have seen the children who have been born from embryo adoption. Everyone knows that embryonic stem cell research (escr) destroys the embryo. We know of no one who was an embryonic stem cell donor. So the significance of H.R. 810 is that more funding would be allowed for more research on these spare and leftover embryos. It is curious to point out the little known fact that in Germany, it is illegal to freeze embryos. All embryos created in the lab must be implanted. Germany has no spare or leftover embryos. Germany’s stem cell research policy is very similar to the current stem cell research policy under the Bush administration. How did the U.S. get to the point of having almost a half of a million spare embryos? A great question we should be discussing.
H.R. 810 is also significant in that it seeks to expand funding in an area of research that has yet to demonstrate any success in treating patients vs. expanding the funding into areas of research that are already showing great promise and benefit at the patient level. For example, H.R. 596 is the Cord Blood Stem Cell Act of 2005, which seeks to establish a national registry to prepare, store and distribute cord blood cells for patient treatment and research. The operative word is treatment, as umbilical cord blood stem cells are already treating people. Sickle cell disease is one example of the many successes in umbilical cord blood research. Embryonic stem cell research, which has been going on for several decades, has not provided one therapy, nor even reached the level of human clinical trials.
But the most significant point is that H.R. 810 allows federal funding to go forward on yesterday’s science. This has never been a debate about spare or leftover embryos. If the truth were to be told, the heart of this debate has always centered on human cloning. With the recent announcement of human embryonic cloning in the U.K. and again in South Korea, it is clear that this is the research scientists are ultimately after. Why settle for frozen embryos, if the future is really in patient specific human cloning research? South Korea’s cloning scientist Hwang Woo-suk made headlines after announcing his creation of the world’s first embryonic stem cells genetically matched to the injured or sick patients ﾖ the first major step to grow patients’ own replacement tissue to treat diseases. Does this sound familiar? Remember the 2004 Democratic National convention speech delivered by Ron Reagan Jr. when he said, “How’d you like to have your own personal biological repair kit standing by at the hospital? Sound like magic? Welcome to the future of medicine.” Supporters of H.R. 810 claim this bill supports scientific progress and leads us closer to cures for dreaded lethal diseases. H.R. 810 is in fact yesterday’s science, diverting funds away from ethical areas of research which are providing real hope and cures for people. H.R. 810 is our wake up call as our eyes focus on the senate now and S 876 which opens wide the door to ﾖ human cloning. Tomorrow’s science is here.
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