|State Sen. Walter
wants $16 Million
for Stem-Cell Research
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.
TAKE ACTION INFORMATION IS AT THE END OF THIS STORY!
RALEIGH – A bill being considered by state lawmakers would cost $16 million in taxpayer dollars and could lead to the deaths of countless embryos, all for the sake of a field of scientific research that has yet to yield one single viable medical treatment. (1)
Senate Bill 1965 sponsored by Sen. Walter Dalton (D-Rutherford) would award to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, Wake Forest University and East Carolina University, grants of up to $4 million each, earmarked for stem cell research, but not specifying whether those stem cells would be adult or embryonic – a difference that is huge on at least two levels.
Could this Research be Unethical?
First, embryonic stem cell research destroys life – human embryos developed from fertilized eggs (just as each of us started out); while adult stem cells can be obtained harmlessly from virtually every tissue of our bodies as well as umbilical cord blood and placenta; and second, adult stem cell research has already resulted in therapies to treat more than 70 diseases and injuries (2) while embryonic stem cells have not been used in even one human clinical trial.
The stem cell issue arose in Raleigh last year when the House passed HB 1837, a bill that would have set up a committee to create parameters and provide grants to be awarded after the General Assembly approved the guidelines. The proposed legislation never made it out of committee in the Senate, but now SB 1965, since it is an appropriations bill, may be rolled into the state budget, a move that more than few lawmakers and scientists agree would be both ethically and fiscally irresponsible.
“It is very much an ethical issue with me. When they use these embryos, they end a life,” said Rep. Mark Hilton (R-Catawba), who introduced an amendment last session that would have limited the grants to adult stem cell research only. “But the issue that most resonates with the people may be a cost benefit analysis. Embryonic stem cell research hasn’t shown any promise, and for us to take public funds for it, is throwing away the taxpayers’ money.”
Even Dr. James A. Thomson, whose lab at the University of Wisconsin was one of two to take stem cells from human embryos for the first time a decade ago, sees an end to the so-called “stem cell wars,” now that he and other scientists have found ways to turn ordinary skin cells into stem cells.
“The new iPS technology (induced Pluripotent Stem cell) allows scientists to create embryonic-type stem cells, but without embryos, eggs or cloning,” said Dr. David Prentice, a founding member of Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics and a Fellow of the Wilberforce Forum Council for Biotechnology Policy. “The technique is also more efficient, more reliable, and less expensive than using embryos or cloning.”
Thomson told the New York Times late last year that, because of the discovery, the fight over the source of stem cells will, within a decade, be nothing more than a “historical footnote.”
“Isn’t it great to start a field and then to end it,” he told the newspaper. (3)
Yet Tar Heel legislators are considering investing $16 million in that dead-end field, a fact no doubt mind-boggling to Dr. James Sherley, associate professor of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who provided testimony to the House Science and Technology Committee last session.
Embryonic stem cell research will not yield promised new therapies for children and adults,” Sherley’s statement said, because “embryonic stem cells fundamentally lack the property required for repairing or healing mature tissues and organs.”
His statement went on to say that if funds are allocated for embryonic stem cell research, the bill will counter its own purpose.
According to Sherley, “Debilitating diseases like diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s dementia are under siege by adult stem cell research and traditional disease research efforts. Funding futile human embryonic stem cell research will take resources away from these tried and successful paths.” (4)
Prentice concurs. “If we really want to help patients, adult stem cells are the ones showing all of the real evidence, and real promise!” he said.
The North Carolina Family Policy Council issued a special report on stem cell research and asked Sen. Dalton to add a provision that would limit the grants to adult stem cell research only.
Dalton did not respond to a Christian Action League e-mail and phone call regarding whether he would consider the provision. E-mails to the bill’s co-sponsors, Stan Bingham (R-Davidson, Guilford) and Katie Dorsett (D-Guilford) also went unanswered.
(1) “The End of the Stem-Cell Wars,” by Ryan T. Anderson, The Weekly Standard, Dec. 3, 2007, Volume 013, Issue 12.
(2) “Benefits of Stem Cells to Human Patients,” Fact Sheet from Do No Harm, April 11, 2007.
(3) “Man Who Helped Start Stem Cell War May End It,” by Gina Kolata, The New York Times, Nov. 22, 2007.
(4) Testimony from Dr. James Sherley, Associate Professor of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, read by proxy (Father Phil Tighe) at the June 20, 2007 meeting of the Science and Technology Committee of the N.C. House.
Take Action: SB 1965 – Fund Stem Cell Research, currently resides in the Appropriations on Health and Human Services Committee.
First, send an email to the following members of this committee:
Co-Chairman Sen. Doug Berger Dougb@ncleg.net Co-Chairman Sen. William Purcell Williamp@ncleg.net Members Sen. Harris Blake Harrisb@ncleg.net
Sen. Charlie Dannely Charlied@ncleg.net
Sen. James Forrester Jamesf@ncleg.net
Sen. Steve Goss Steveg@ncleg.net
Ask committee members to oppose the legislation if it is not amended so that public funds may not be used for research on human embryos. It is unethical to create embryos for stem cell research or perform research on human embryos. Embryonic stem cell research hasn’t shown any promise and investing public monies in this field are both ethically and fiscally irresponsible.
Support for adult stem cell research, where all the promise has been proven, is acceptable. The new iPS technology (induced Pluripotent Stem cell) allows scientists to create embryonic-type stem cells, but without embryos, eggs or cloning. The technique is also more efficient, more reliable, and less expensive than using embryos or cloning.
Second, call – don’t email – just call the office of Sen. Walter Dalton and share these same thoughts. Senator Dalton’s phone numbers are:
(919) 715-3038 (Office)
(828) 287-2908 (Home)