Stem-cell research emerges as key issue at capitol

· Jul 12, 2001 Tweet

Recent developments in embryonic stem-cell research have made it a highly ethical and political debate on both a local and national level.

One such development was made by Eastern Virginia Medical School’s Jones Institute on July 11 when they announced their use of embryos created for the sole purpose of retrieving stem cells.

The Jones Institute, a privately funded company, paid donors to harvest their eggs and sperm in order to create a new source of embryos.

Stem cells are able to form any cell type in the body creating the potential to cure diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes.

Currently, the state budget proposed by the Assembly contains a bill introduced by state Rep. Sheryl Albers, R-Loganville, that would ban stem-cell research on embryos obtained after Jan. 1, 2002, with a maximum fine of $50,000 and seven and a half years in prison.

“Utilizing human embryos for the alleged benefit for other people is wrong,” said Carrie Bohman, a spokeswoman for Albers. “To purposefully create a human being for the sole purpose of destruction is not ethical.”

If the bill doesn’t go through with the budget they would introduce it as a separate piece of legislation, Bohman said.

Senate Democrats have asked the Assembly to drop the stem cell provision.

“The Assembly has refused [to remove the provision] but that is not acceptable,” said Mike Browne, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison. “They are asking the state to go backwards. It’s sending a terrible message to the UW and the entire state. It’s saying to the stem cell researchers you’re no longer welcome and implies broader consequences to biotechnology.”

As Wisconsin looks towards its future economy and tries to establish a reputation for biotechnology, this bill could set back such efforts.

Although some Assembly Republican are against all stem-cell research, Bohman said it wasn’t necessarily stem-cell research but the killing of human beings that created the most tension.

“[Albers is] not against adult stem cell research or biotechnology per se,” Bohman said. “What she is against is purposefully destroying human beings for research.”

Although stem cells can be obtained from other sources such as adults, umbilical cords, and placentas, embryonic stem cells have shown the most potential for developing a treatment.

“Adult stem cells are not the answer and we’re fooling ourselves if we choose to rely simply on adult stem cells,” Dr. Jon Ordorico, a UW surgery professor said.

On a national level, President Bush is deciding whether the federal government should fund embryonic stem-cell research. Though there may be a voter backlash among anti-abortion groups there is a division of opinion even among people associated with anti-abortion.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, a supporter of stem-cell research is now faced with the challenge of advising Bush on the issue of federal funding.

Current regulations set forth by the NIH would not support the practice of creating embryos for the sole purpose of retrieving stem cells. Instead the supply would come from the thousands of left over embryos created through in vitro fertilization efforts.

“Federal funding would give careful ethical and scientific oversight to the process so that the research is monitored and ethically acceptable,” Odorico said.


This article was published Jul 12, 2001 at 12:00 pm and last updated Jul 12, 2001 at 12:00 pm


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