House Subcommittee Hears Both Sides of Stem Cell Debate
At a hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources yesterday, advocates for both sides of the debate over federal funding of embryonic stem cell research used "dueling images to put a human face" on the issue, the New York Times reports. A 12-year-old girl with diabetes and her twin sister "urged" President Bush to allow federal funding of the practice, saying that the research could "spare [people with diabetes] the debilitating effects of the disease." Arguing the opposite position, two parents from California held up their 9-month-old twin sons, who were "adopted" from frozen embryos, as an example of why the federal government should not fund medical research that uses such embryos in medical research. "Which one of my children would you kill?" John Borden asked the subcommittee (Stolberg, New York Times, 7/18). The hearing "reflect[ed] the extraordinary human stories at the core of both sides" of the debate, the Los Angeles Times reports (Gupta, Los Angeles Times, 7/18). A subcommittee of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is expected to hold a hearing on funding stem cell research today (New York Times, 7/18).
According to an NIH study being released today, both embryonic and adult stem cells hold "enormous promise" for treating degenerative diseases, but embryonic cells are more "plentiful and therefore easier to extract," and have the "uncanny ability to develop into a much wider array of tissues." The report emphasizes that the "only way" to determine the potential of each type of cell is to conduct more research (Connolly, Washington Post, 7/18). The report says that embryonic stem cells offer a "flexibility that may be lacking" in adult stem cells and states that researchers should be "free to study stem cells from all sources -- including living human embryos -- to discover the full potential of the cells to treat disease." The report, undertaken at the request of the Bush administration, does not make a recommendation on federal funding for the research, but does say that more research into the area is necessary to determine which kind of cells offer the best hope. White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said that the report is "one component of the scientific, ethical, and legal issues" surrounding the federal funding of the research, adding that Bush "intends to look at it in that context" (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/18).