FETUS FARMING PROHIBITION ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - July 17, 2006)
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Mr. HARKIN. Mr. President, I was going to ask the Senator from Kansas--I will even do it on my time. I guess our next speaker is not here right now. If the Senator from Kansas would perhaps engage me in a colloquy, I would ask about the gentleman whose picture he has up there. How is he doing now? I understand that, frankly, while his Parkinson's was relieved for a while, it has reverted and he is back in his previous state. Does the Senator know about that?
Mr. BROWNBACK. Yes. If you caught my comments on the floor, I stated that is part of the tragedy here. He had 5 years Parkinson's free, wants an additional treatment using the same adult stem cell procedure he had before that worked, and can't get it. We don't have sufficient funding to move that on forward.
Mr. HARKIN. I say to my friend, I don't understand that. I have a chart here that shows stem cell funding, embryonic stem cell funding, is $38.3 million last year and adult stem cell funding is $200 million. You are telling me out of $200 million they can't help one individual?
Plus, I ask my friend from Kansas, if this is so promising, why is the entire Parkinson's network that represents all the people with Parkinson's disease 100 percent behind H.R. 810? Why are they so supportive of H.R. 810 and not this approach?
Mr. BROWNBACK. If I could answer on both of those, I would have printed in the RECORD the funding over the past 4 years for both embryonic and adult and cord blood stem cells. We put about half a billion in embryonic, both animal and human, over the past 5 years. I ask unanimous consent to have this printed in the RECORD, to point to the level of funding we have put in both of those
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Mr. BROWNBACK. Second, I would point out on Parkinson's, I don't know why the Parkinson's advocacy community would support that. I find it hard to believe they would oppose us doing more work in this field. I would simply ask you, or others, if we have a place that is working and we have another place that is producing tumors, why wouldn't you put more in a place that is working?
Mr. HARKIN. I say to my friend from Kansas--and I see Senator Nelson is here to speak. He had previously been scheduled to do so--first, I didn't see all the figures the Senator sent to the desk. I would like to see those. I heard him talk about a half billion dollars. Frankly, what the Senator from Kansas is talking about is animal embryonic. We are talking about human--human experiments here, not animal.
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Mr. BROWNBACK. We have been down this road before. We tried this on the fetal tissue research. Remember that debate of 10 to 15 years ago. They had fast-growing cells, Parkinson's, and heart disease. When we inserted them into actual human patients, here is what it did. It created disastrous results because they formed all sorts of tissues along with cancer. We have been here before, as the Senator knows, on trying to get these sort of different cells from other bodies into one.
Mr. HARKIN. We have gone down a lot of blind alleys in medical research in the past. I have often said that one of the reasons for basic research is that you have 11 doors that are closed. The answer to the problem and the answer to your endeavor may be behind one of those doors. When you have enough funding to open one door, you know what the odds are against you finding it. Or if you have funding for half, then you know what the odds are against you opening the right door. A lot of doors don't lead to anything. A lot of basic research goes down the path, and they find out that is not the answer. So they have to shift to something else. That happens all the time. That is what basic research is all about.
I do not know the specific thing. I am not surprised that many things in the past that scientists have gone down the road on have not led to something curative or therapeutic or something like that which helps us.
That doesn't mean that we have tried something before with devastating effects which doesn't say that we can't then do embryonic stem cell research.
I get back to the point that when you have almost every disease group in this country supporting the bill that is before us, H.R. 810, you have Nobel laureates, scientists, doctors, and you have 19 Directors of NIH saying that thi
has great potential, then I say, again, to my friends that you have to make either one of two assumptions. Either all of these people have been hoodwinked and they do not know what they are talking about or they have no care or concern about ethics or morals or anything else. I think both assumptions are wrong. I think these people know. They are informed. They may not know every little thing medical doctors might know, but they know the potential.
Second, I think they are vastly ethical and moral people.
I hope we will have some further colloquies on this later.
Mr. BROWNBACK. I would love to respond with a quick response. I think a third option is people are kind of interested in what these cells will do. I quoted from Lord Winston, a British stem cell researcher, saying it is an interesting area, but it is not going to produce any likely cures in my lifetime. But they are curious. They are looking at it and saying it is an interesting area of research. If we are going to cure people, let us cure people and let us talk about that kind of research.
The Senator has been very kind to let me speak.
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Mr. BROWNBACK. Thank you very much.
I want to point out in a little different format to my colleagues that when we talk about direct areas of being able to get treatments--we covered this some today--this is a little bit of a different presentation and a little more directly related to where we are getting treatments in this field, which is in the adult stem cell field. Here are some of the various areas where we get direct treatments.
The area of embryonic research, while interesting and intriguing, is not producing any results. It is not producing any cures. We are getting direct results from the adult, and we are not getting the formation of tumors in the adults. This area is working.
I also point out this is at no cost. People say these are embryos and we are throwing them away. You look at that. And I had this morning in my office and at a press conference three snowflake babies. These are all babies who were in in vitro fertilization clinics, were not going to be implanted by the natural parents, were given up for adoption. They are here now, and they are beautiful and they are wonderful. They are absolutely precious.
This isn't some sort of throwaway commodity. I point out to people that if you are one of those individuals who have frozen embryos--the number I hear is that 1 in 10 people in the United States suffer from infertility problems. There are a lot of people who would want to and do want to implant these frozen embryos and give them the nurturing they need to become humans we would all recognize. I hope people will look at that.
My other point is on President Reagan, who certainly was an inspiration for me to get into public office, and had a beautiful winsomeness about his presentation of truth. He was a fabulous individual. President Reagan was pro life. President Reagan did not and would not agree with the destruction of young human life. In fact, he said at one point in time, if there is a doubt about whether it is a life, if somebody was dying and there was a doubt about whether they are dead, you wouldn't put them in a casket and bury them. You would give them the benefit of the doubt. You would say, Well, let us work to bring them back.
The same on the young end--if there is a question, you err on the side of life. You treat this as life. There is a kind of common sense about it.
President Reagan was pro life. He fought for pro-life issues. He would not want to see us destroy one human life for the benefit of another.
A final point in this area: President Reagan suffered Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's is, as I understand it being explained to me, a plaque disease on the brain material. It is highly unlikely it is going to be treated with stem cells. Parkinson's is an area where we have adult stem cell treatment--a different type of disease. But the disease President Reagan fell to was Alzheimer's. It is highly unlikely that any stem cell, even adult or cord blood, and even more unlikely embryonic or cloning, would deal with the area of Alzheimer's.
The only reason I mention that is I think we need to try to be very accurate in our debate in saying what is a good possibility and hope and what is not. That one would be unlikely. Parkinson's we have a good shot at in the adult stem cell, and we have some early treatments already showing some promise in that particular field. But I don't think it is wise that we bring that up in that particular instance in the case of Alzheimer's. I think it is important that we be very clear about what this is and what will work and what will not.
The other thing I want to make mention of when we are talking about cures for things in this field is let us talk about areas where we have real scientific prospects of getting this done in the adult field. In the embryonic, as we have said for some period of time, it is unlikely to produce any sort of direct benefit to patients any time in the near future. That is according to scientists who are pro embryonic stem cell research. We can do more research in this field. There is some understanding from the presentation of the Senator from Georgia talking about other areas to derive embryonic type of stem cells. That is something we can do. The scientific community is producing more and more results in that particular area which I think are quite helpful and quite promising for us. It removes the ethical dilemma on this. It would be deriving embryonic type stem cells but without destroying embryos.
We are coming up with this along with the stem cell line. People are coming up with this in other fields. There is no reason to go into the ethical area--the question of destroying human life with taxpayer dollars to be able to get that done. I think it is important that we point out those particular areas in this bioethical debate.
One of the bills we will be voting on is an alternative bill. I talked about the fetal farming bill. I hope that passes 100 to zero so we can ban fetal farming. A lot has been talked about on H.R. 810, which is expansion of the stem cell lines using embryos and Federal taxpayer dollars to do that.
What has been talked about less is this area of the Santorum-Specter bill which would create embryonic type stem cells without destroying embryos. Here is a way for people, if they are troubled about the ethics of destroying a young human--I really do not want to do that, but you think there is a promising area of inquiry on these embryonic type stem cells and you are looking at this saying, Yes, it is not producing cures or results right now, but it might in a decade or two, so I would like to see this pursued--here is an ethical alternative for you to pursue. You don't have to say, Let's destroy this young human life. You can say, Let us go with the alternative here where we are finding scientifically that we can derive these types of stem cells without the destruction of human life, embryos. If you like this field of inquiry, I raise a question about embryonic stem cells because we have invested $.5 billion in animal and human. We don't have any applications for it today, but if you are still saying we still ought to invest in this field because it might produce something, it might produce something big, you have an alternative which you can vote for in this Santorum-Specter alternative bill, and say, We want to pursue the science in this particular field. That is an area and a possibility that could work and we can and should, I think, pursue. I think it would be a good alternative for somebody who is in that type of quandary about which way to pursue this.
I will have further comments later on this evening. I don't want to take up the other side's time. I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, I thank my colleague from Georgia for his comments. We are about to wrap up the first full day of debate. We will vote tomorrow on a package of three votes. This is an important debate. This is one area that we have needed to debate for some period of time. We haven't had a real debate on a pending bioethics bill since 1998. The science has changed dramatically since 1998 and the debate at that point in time. We should benefit from this debate and from the science. All of us are interested in people such as Jacki Rabon. I have shown her picture before, but I want to make the point again because several of my colleagues have talked about people with spinal cord injuries. They talk about people with Parkinson's disease and what they wanted to do was cure that--to get something that would work for them. That is what was motivating them. I just want to help this person.
Here is a real live person; traffic accident; paraplegic from the waist down; an active athlete; excited about her future--and that all changed in a few seconds.
We all know this story too well because we have heard it and seen it in our own communities. I simply ask my colleagues: What is the most likely treatment route for her? Is it adult and cord blood stem cells or is it embryonic stem cells? We have to make choices on dollars and where you invest funds. If we take the $.5 billion that we have invested in the embryonic stem cells in human and animals over the last 5 years and say we are going to get people such as Jacki walking again, what are we going to invest that money in? Is it going to be on embryonic or adult? She is already showing some improvement and feeling in her hip area. She is able to walk now with braces--through use of adult stem cell therapy which, unfortunately, she has had to go to Portugal to get. Researchers are here, but they cannot get into the FDA trials.
Clearly, the answer, if we want her to walk again during her lifetime, is to work and to fund adult and cord blood stem cells. That is where we are going to get the treatments. That is where it is working.
The other areas may provide some interesting science. But if we are interested in helping people such as Jacki, we have one area that works, and we have another area into which we have put $.5 billion and it hasn't worked--and we know that.
I want to show you a picture of Dennis Turner. He has been brought up in this debate. I have had him in to testify. He is a Parkinson's patient. We want to cure Parkinson's disease. He was Parkinson's-free for 5 years because of adult stem cell therapy. It started to come back after that period of time, but he got 5 years of his life back.
If our objective is to have a treatment or cure for people such as Dennis Turner, where are we going to put the money? Are we going to put it in embryonic stem cells, where the scientists supporting it say this will take decades to find any sort of treatment, if they ever find a treatment, or put it into the adult stem cell area where they are already showing some results?
I know if I have limited resources, I would want to put my money where it is most likely to yield. It clearly is in the adult and cord blood stem cell area.
A lot of allegations and questions have been made regarding adult stem cells and cord blood and whether they are actually showing the types of results that I have been suggesting.
I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the RECORD at the end of my statement the current list--it gets updated often--of 72 current human clinical applications using adult stem cells.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
(See exhibit 1.)
Mr. BROWNBACK. Mr. President, next week it will may be 75, but for this week it is 72.
My point in saying highlighting this is that some have said they really question whether we are getting that many treatments. There have only been nine FDA-approved full clinical trials, full treatment areas using adult stem cells. Okay. I will take that. I do not know if that is an accurate number. But remember that FDA is the standard where you have to go through clinical trials 1 and 2 to get the application and get it tested before it is fully used.
I note that people are challenging how many areas of adult stem cell are being treated. I welcome this debate. I think we should be looking at the science and where it is going. They were saying we really question whether this many areas of adult stem cell treatments are actually happening. They produced an addendum to their challenge on it. They went through all of the 65 areas at that time. It is now 72. But when they did the review, it was 65. The Senator from Iowa was particularly challenging whether we have this many treatment areas. He pulled out one on testicular cancer and said: I don't think they are really getting it there. But this addendum is the people challenging the number of adult stem cell areas that have treatment. On testicular cancer, the researcher described a clinical evaluation showing improved long-term survival of a relapsed testicular cancer patient following the radical therapy that included a transplant of adult stem cells from bone marrow or blood. The research is actually showing that it was an improvement.
I am not saying that these are all FDA-approved areas. This is an area of research. But you actually have a researcher saying it showed improvement. This isn't the group who is challenging whether we are getting these treatments at all. They are not cures today. This is research. But the research shows a promise even in the area that they challenge.
Leukemia--this is from the same addendum. Two clinical studies, each incorporating multiple leukemia types, indicate that adult stem cell transplants from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood improved the survival of children with leukemia.
That is not FDA approved. But it is working. This, after only a short period of time that we have been working with all these different types of adult stem cells. We have known about them in bone marrow for some period of time.
Some patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma show an overall improved survival rate when transplanted with adult stem cells from blood.
The list goes on and on.
I welcome a debate about whether we are getting treatment for areas where people are showing improvement taking place with adult and cord blood because the truth of matter is we are. These are not all FDA approved. We never said that they were. The problem is we need more money to be able to get more of these FDA trials so that we can get more people treated. If we do that, there is a very promising area that is already showing results. Why not put your money there?
Let me give my colleagues a visual of this, if anybody is interested. There is a notebook of showing the accumulation of recent advances in adult stem cell research and other alternatives to cloning and embryonic stem cell research. This is a one-page summary of each of these areas where we are getting treatment. Note that I am not saying cures. I want to be very careful with my words. The treatments are promising in adult and cord blood.
Look how thick this book is. This is just one-page summaries of each of these various areas--cord blood, cartilage, brain damage, cancers. It has been very impressive.
If you do not like this example or if you are still questioning whether we are showing this much progress in adult stem cell, I invite people to go on the Internet and look at a site called ClinicalTrials.gov. This is an area where clinical trials are listed on the Internet. I didn't know about it until today. It sounded very interesting to me. It shows, as of now--I guess these numbers are actually growing with 565 such clinical trials currently active or recruiting patients using adult or cord blood stem cells to treat people.
If we want to cure people, if we want to find real treatments, if we want to see cures for people with spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's, diabetes, cancer or heart disease, the clear area to invest in is adult and cord blood. That is the clear area to go into.
Let us look on the other side of the aisle on this the embryonic stem cell work which is being pushed here today.
By the way, my colleagues have known about this for a very long time. We have known about embryonic stem cells for 25 years. We have worked and looked at these things for a long period of time.
They say this is arbitrary and it is not going to support killing embryos. What is being talked about is using taxpayer money to expand the lines of embryonic stem cell research. To get embryonic stem cells, you have to destroy an embryo.
The President set a date, August 9 at 9 p.m, when he was delivering a speech to the Nation saying, after this point in time, we are not going to fund it any further because we do not want to fund the additional destruction of human life.
We will work on it on a prior date. That is why that date was picked.
Here is a clear demarcation. We will fund it prior; we have to the tune of half a billion on human and animal. It is both. After that, we will not fund it on humans because the life-and-death decision has already been made on these designs prior to August 9 but not on future ones.
Now, if we say we are going to use taxpayer money to fund any human embryonic stem cell research, people could go out today after we fund this, destroy human embryos, develop the lines, and have Federal taxpayer dollars. I again point out to my colleagues, there are no prohibitions in the United States today against any embryonic stem cell research. You can do it anywhere you want. We do have a limitation on the Federal taxpayer dollars, on where they can go in the future destruction of human life.
Now, with this half a billion that we have invested over the last 5 years, how many human treatments do we have from embryonic stem cells? I have a notebook that shows the number of human treatments. I will show this notebook again. This is adult and cord blood. Here are human treatments on embryonic stem cell research. We do not have the research. It is not there. They do not exist.
It is interesting research. It has proven very problematic to get to people.
A number of my colleagues have been pushing this bill for some period of time, and I do not question or challenge what they were doing. I think they want to find cures. But the problem is we have not found treatments in the embryonic field.
They were saying in the year 1999 one of my colleague's medical experts testified that it may well be within 5 years of a cure for Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and a long list of other human ailments. Stem cell research has enormous potential.
That is true. But it is adult cord blood stem cell research that is working. It is not embryonic. The embryonic has not produced the treatments. That was 1999. We are 7 years later, and it has not produced a peer-reviewed treatment.
We have scientists who testified at a hearing in 1998. Mr. President, I refer my colleagues to www.access.gpo.gov/congress/senate for that testimony.
Mr. President, when Dr. Gearhart was asked how long will it be before we get these cures to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, or cancer, he responded:
I actually think within several years, to be honest with you .....
That was 1998. Eight years later, here we are. Dr. Gearhart--one of the leading researchers in this field.
Then Dr. Thompson, one of the leading researchers on Parkinson's:
I am going to say 5 to 10 years more.
It will be one of the first ones.
We do have a treatment being developed. And it is adult stem cells for Parkinson's. We do not need to make this life-and-death decision and expand taxpayer funding for the embryonic lines.
My point is, in 1998 the leading researchers were saying we will have these cures in a few years, 5 to 10 years, and now researchers are saying it is decades, if even in their lifetime, that it will happen.
I conclude with this point. If this were all in the abstract and we were saying that we will spend another half a billion in this area, go ahead and do that, you could say: Well, all right, we spend a lot of money around here, we will do that. The problem with it is: how many millions of dollars will be spent on research, which is based on destroying human embryos that become human people? This is the beginnings of human life. That is the real ethical rub on top of the financial rub of whether this is the right place to invest.
I have cited the snowflake child, Hannah previously. Was she just a clump of stem cells? Early life can be very fragile.
This is Isaiah Royal, born to one of my staff members. Isaiah Royal was born at 24 weeks of age, very early. He is a fighter. But I don't think you can possibly say he is not human life. He is just 23 weeks after the embryonic stage that we are talking about, 23 weeks and a couple of days after that. Would you deny that he is human life? You would say no, of course not. Isaiah is struggling. He weighed 1 pound 14 ounces at birth. He is a good, tough, fighter. But we are talking about fragile human life, and it should be treated as sacred. We should not do research on it. Human life is important.
This is an important question. I urge my colleagues to vote against H.R. 810.
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