Remarks by Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) against Castle Bill
Statement in Opposition to HR 810
Make no mistake, Mr. Speaker, I support aggressive stem cell research and the judicious application of stem cells to mitigate and cure disease.
That's why I sponsored the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005, which is likely to pass after the debate on this bill. That's why I strongly support pouring millions of dollars in federal funds to support adult and cord blood stem cells research. To find cures. To alleviate suffering. To inspire well-founded hope. To do it all in a way that respects the sanctity and dignity of human life.
The largely untold story in America today - the great big secret missed until now by many in the major media - are the extraordinary success stories of cord blood and adult stem cells.
Yesterday, a 19 year old young man named Keonne Penn was here to tell his story of being cured of Sickle Cell Anemia. After multiple strokes and being told he would not live much longer, he was treated with cord blood stem cells. He said, "If it wasn't for cord blood, I'd probably be dead by now. It's a good thing I found a match - it saved my life."
Stephen Sprague, a 57 year old man who was cured of Leukemia said, "I was lucky to find a cord blood match "
22 year old Jacklyn Albanese, who just graduated from Rutgers in New Jersey and was also cured of Leukemia said, "If it wasn't for the New York Blood Center I have no idea what kind of shape I'd be in right now. I'm thankful for them and all the new research being put into cord blood transplants."
These are the stories of what is working right now. Ethical stem cell research has cured patients and has shown the ability to generate any cell type necessary for potential treatments, but with the Castle bill, we are talking about killing human embryos instead.
I strongly oppose the Castle bill because it will use federal funds to kill perfectly healthy human embryos to derive stem cells.
Human embryos have inherent value - they are not commodities or things or just tissue. Human embryos are human lives at their most vulnerable beginning stage and deserve respect. Parents of human embryos are custodians of the young, not owners of "human property", and the public policy we craft should ensure that the best interests of newly created human life is protected and preserved.
The Castle bill embraces the misinformed notion that so-called leftover embryos - a grossly misleading and dehumanizing term in and of itselfare just going to be destroyed anyway and poured down the drain.
That is simply not true.
The cryogenically frozen male and female embryos that the genetic parents may feel are no longer needed for implanting in the genetic mother are of infinite value to an adoptive mother who may be sterile or otherwise unable to have a baby.
The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, for example, has facilitated the adoption of 96 formerly frozen embryos, with more adoptions in the works. I've met some of those kids, who are not leftovers. Despite spending years of their lives in "frozen orphanages," these children today are just as human and alive and full of promise as any other children. So don't, Mr. Castle, stand up here and tell us these wonderful children are throwaways.
Even though the whole idea that these early human beings "are going to be thrown away anyway" is simply not true, that kind of rationale for research is deeply troubling. Indeed, civilized cultures have systems in place to protect patients and the practice of medicine from that type of exploitation. Organ donation may not cause or hurry a patient's death. We do not allow research on or use organs from death row prisoners who "are going to die anyway". The infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, which studied people who where supposedly going to get sick and die anyway, has been rightly rejected by history because that is not a valid reason for experimentation. We refuse research on terminally ill patients, unless it clearly has potential to help the patient. Killing the youngest members of the human family, who can and are adopted, in experiments undermines the foundations of so many of our legal and ethical protections of people in research. Medical research ethics should not be guided by the ends justify the means.
We would be wise to refuse to fund this over-hyped and morally suspect expedition promoted by big BIO and those who want experimentation without limits. Adult stem cell research works. Embryo research has not. Embryo research results in the death of a human embryo. Adult stem cell does not. Taxpayer funds should focus on research that is saving lives today, not on unethical research that has not cured anyone. Let's continue to guide our country's scientific exploration by ethical application of cutting edge science.