Pennsylvania Cmte Has Hearing on Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 26, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pennsylvania Cmte Has Hearing on Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 26, 2006

Harrisburg, PA ( — Pennsylvania state House Democrats held a hearing on whether or not to use state funds to pay for embryonic stem cell research. However, a patient and a leading researcher said the state would be wise to put its money towards adult stem cells, which have shown more success and hold more promise for patients.

The state House Democratic Policy Committee listened to more than three hours worth of testimony. Though it doesn’t have the power to pass legislation, it studies issues and provides more information to lawmakers.

At the hearing, Steve Johnson of Berks County, whose daughter Zara was adopted as a human embryo "leftover" from a fertility clinic, said that adult stem cell research is better than embryonic.

Bound to a wheelchair, he and his wife decided to adopt Zara as a frozen embryo from the Snowflake Frozen Embryo Adoption Program and have a child that way, according to a York Record report.

Though he could benefit from a potential therapy from embryonic stem cell research, he says that it has yet to help any patients while new advances are continuing on studies with adult stem cells.

"I am not against stem-cell research. I am for the type of stem-cell research that works," Johnson said, according to the York newspaper.

Meanwhile, Gary Friedman, a transplant physician and trustee of the nonprofit New Jersey Stem Cell Research and Education Foundation, also testified in front of the hearing.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, he told the committee that adult stem cell research is better and said that data shows transplanted embryonic stem cells caused tumors in lab animals.

Rep. Thomas Tangretti, a Democrat, presided over the committee hearing, but said he had "huge ethical and moral concerns" with embryonic stem-cell research and said it is "fraught with problems."

"This issue causes huge moral, ethical and religious concerns," he said, and added that the state legislature should focus only on adult stem cells.

Rep. Babette Josephs, a Democrat who has sponsored a bill to use state tax dollars on embryonic stem cells complained that the hearing was designed to block his bill.

Governor Ed Rendell, a Democrat, supports paying for embryonic stem cell research, spokeswoman Kate Philips said.

Pennsylvania’s pro-life laws on abortion that were passed in 1989 prohibits nontherapeutic research on human embryos created in Pennsylvania, but allows research on ones created elsewhere.