House Approves Bill Funding Unproven Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 24, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

House Approves Bill Funding Unproven Embryonic Stem Cell Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 24, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday approved legislation that would spend taxpayer funds on unproven embryonic stem cell research. Lawmakers backing the bill say they will ask the Senate to back the legislation, which President Bush has promised to veto.

Approved on a 238-194 vote, the margin is far short of the 290 votes necessary to override a presidential veto — meaning the bill will not likely become law.

"This bill would take us across a critical ethical line by creating new incentives for the ongoing destruction of emerging human life," President Bush said Tuesday. "Crossing this line would be a great mistake."

Florida Republican Rep. Dave Weldon is one of the leading opponents of legislation, sponsored by Rep. Michael Castle, a Delaware Republican, which would overturn President Bush’s policies preventing taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research.

He said adult stem cells are far superior to embryonic stem cells, which have yet to cure any patients after 20 years of research.

"Adult stem cells and, in particular, cord blood stem cells are going to be the sources for the regenerative, miraculous medicine in the future," he said. "Embryonic stem cell research is just not getting good research results."

But, Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said the bill was needed to cure fatal diseases.

"How many more lives must be ended or ravaged?" Ms. Maloney said. "How much more unimaginable suffering must be endured until government gives researchers the wherewithal to simply do their jobs?"

Yet, no currently approved treatments are being used on patients as a result of research on the cells and there are no human trials. The only results have shown they are unsafe as they have produced tumors, cause transplant rejection, and they have formed the wrong kind of needed replacement cells.

Castle claimed his bill would not allow the destruction of human life.

"Under no circumstances," the Delaware Republican said in a written statement last week, "does this legislation allow for the creation of embryos for research, nor does it fund the destruction of embryos."

However, the only way to obtain the stem cells from human embryos is to destroy them.

Castle’s bill would allow scientists to use frozen human embryos from in vitro fertilization clinics for research.

Weldon, a doctor, said that even if every one of the current 400,000 frozen embryos were destroyed, only 275 embryonic stem cell lines would be obtained. That won’t be enough for research, Weldon says, and he worries that scientists will then look to human cloning to create more.

Polls show a majority of Americans don’t want their tax dollars used to pay for embryonic stem cell research.

A poll conducted earlier this month by International Communications Research, found 52 percent oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research while just 36 percent support it.

Meanwhile, 60% favored funding only the research avenues that raise no moral problem, while 22% favored funding all stem cell research including the kind that involves destroying embryos.

In an August 2004 poll conducted by Wilson Research Strategies, 53 percent of respondents said that they opposed “using tax dollars to pay for the kind of stem cell research that requires the killing of human embryos,” while only 38 percent supported it.

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