Dr. Coburn's Column on Ethical Stem Cell Research
As a practicing physician and two-time cancer survivor, I am intrigued by the potential of embryonic stem cell research. However, liberalizing President Bush's stem cell policy would be both unethical and unnecessary.
The bill Majority Leader Bill Frist recently endorsed would, for the first time, direct the federal government to use taxpayer dollars to destroy human embryos. This proposal is based on a false hope. Not a single treatment has been developed from embryonic stem cells. Yet, more than 60 treatments have been developed from stem cells in umbilical cord blood and adult tissues.
Scientists will likely arrive at the same destination - and cures - without needing to go down the path of taxpayer-funded research that destroys human life. Researchers are close to obtaining stem cells that behave just like embryonic stem cells without destroying human embryos in the process. I've introduced legislation in the Senate to fund this promising avenue of research. Congress should pursue alternatives that offer all of the benefits of embryonic stem cell research but do not open a Pandora's box of ethical problems.
At the dawn of what will likely be the biotech century, advocating taxpayer-funded destructive experimentation on human embryos that will be thrown away anyway' would set us on a dangerous course. If human life is sacred and worthy of protection unless it is unwanted or destined for destruction then many human lives, such as the terminally ill or severely handicapped, would be cheapened and endangered.
This test also moves us closer to a brave new world of human cloning and fetal farms. Why not create human beings for experimentation or spare organs if they would otherwise be cast aside?
Twelve years ago President Clinton permitted research on discarded fetal tissue from abortion clinics because he was told that it was the best avenue to reach vital cures. No cures were produced. Today, supporters of embryonic stem cell research are making similar claims.
Congress can help scientists realize the promise of embryonic stem cell research without authorizing the destruction of human life in the process. President Bush would be wise to veto this legislation.