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Cloning and embryonic stem-cell research potentially made illegal

February 02, 2005
By: Elizabeth Baird
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Cloning and stem cell research found themselves under the microscope at a senate hearing Monday night.

Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, presented a bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee that would outlaw human cloning, defining the creation of a human as the egg of a human female fertilized by the sperm of a human male.

"This is an ethical choice we must make," said Sen. Bartle, "we need to use our good 'ole Missouri common sense."

Committee members also heard scienticif testimony of embryonic stem-cell research, which scientists in Missouri and several other states are exploring as a way to develop treatments fpr diseases such as Parkinson's disease and diabetes. Questions arose about the bill's effect on the legality of this research

A stem cell researcher from Georgetown University, Dr. David A. Prentice, supported the bill, saying adult stem cells were just as effective as the embryonic cells Bartle's bill would ban.

"Embryonic stem cells are unlikely to be of clinical use, and this issue is ethically conentious," said Prentice. "I have a laundry list of diseases that adult stem cells have helped to alleviate."

While Dr. Prentice supported the legislation, other scientists presented different views.

Dr. Steve Teitelbaum, a Washington Universtity therapeutic cloning researcher, opposed the bill, stating that embryonic research was crucial to stem-cell usage in the cure of disease, and could do more than adult cells alone.

"Adult stem cell research has limited potential," said Teitelbaum. "Opponents say that we have been unsuccessful in our attempts to effectively use this technique, but you can't win the Kentucky Derby without a horse."

One author, Wesley J. Smith, discussed ethical arguments about banning cloning and embryonic stem-cell research.

"This is an erosion of the quality of life ethic. Human cloning should be outlawed," said Smith, "this is giving people a false hope."

Additional public testimony will be given Wednesday night when the comittee reconvenes.