April 13, 2002
HUMAN CLONING VOTE IN SENATE LOOMS
This week I saw Joni Eareckson
Tada testify on behalf of a bipartisan bill to ban all forms of human
cloning. Though the diving accident which made her a quadriplegic
occurred 35 years ago, she seemed surprisingly young and forceful as she
spoke about how her "heart goes out to newly injured people who have
suffered spinal cord damage."
"No one understands better their
desire for a cure than me. When I broke my neck and became a
quadriplegic, I was desperate for anything - `Please doctors,
researchers, do anything' that would repair my spinal cord and give me
back the use of my legs and hands. Acute disability does that: it
screams for reprieve, demanding that a cure be gained at any cost."
Therefore, she understands why
Christopher Reeves, the actor who portrayed Superman, but is now a
quadriplegic - testified in favor of cloning and stem cell research.
However, she profoundly disagrees
with him. "I do not want research benefitting me at the expense of other
human life." If a stem cell is taken from an embryo, the embryo must be
killed. She said, "The rights of people with disabilities - especially
those who are disadvantaged and weak - are safeguarded in a society that
honors life. However, the weak and infirm are exposed in a society that
thinks nothing of creating a class of human lives for the purpose of
Dr. Richard Land, president of
the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was more
blunt, "Do we really want to be the kind of society that kills our
tiniest human beings to benefit older and bigger human beings? It is
really high tech cannibalism in which we consume our young for our
Dr. Tom Dooley, creator of two
biotech firms, resigned as president of Alabama's Biotechnology Industry
Organization, because it favors unrestricted use of human cloning
research. "Human cloning for any reason is unnecessary and immoral.
Alternative research approaches and therapies for various diseases are
available," he asserted.
While some scientists want to
have the freedom to use cloning, it has "not been shown to be effective
in directly treating any injury or disease in experimental animal
studies," contended Dr. Jean Peduzzi-Nelson, a University of Alabama
researcher. "Cloning is still in the realm of `wild speculation.'"
However, cell therapy has proven
effective when the person's own adult stem cells have been used, a
technique he said is "safer, easier and more feasible." It avoids
possible disease transmission and rejection.
For example, "Do No Harm," a
Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, reports several labs have
shown adult stem cells are capable of re-growth and re-connection in
spinal cord injury, allowing functional recovery. Melissa Holley, 18, a
paraplegic patient with a severed spinal cord, was treated with her own
immune cells, and regained movement of her toes and bladder control.
By contrast, embryonic stem cells
have not been used with humans because there has been so little progress
with animal studies.
After testifying at the Senate,
scientific and religious leaders went to the East Room of the White
House to hear President George Bush argue, "Advances in biomedical
technology must never come at the expense of human conscience," sparking
applause. "Even the most noble ends do not justify any means."
He noted that Chinese scientists
have derived stem cells from cloned embryos created by combining human
DNA and rabbit eggs! "Others have announced plans to produce cloned
children, despite the fact that laboratory cloning of animals has led to
spontaneous abortions and terrible, terrible deformities. Human cloning
is deeply troubling to me and to most Americans."
Polls show that 86 percent of
Americans oppose allowing scientists to use human cloning to create a
supply of human embryos to be destroyed in medical research. Yet a bill
by Senators Kennedy and Feinstein would permit that. Bush said the
danger is that once embryos are widely available in labs and embryo
farms, implantation in human beings would take place.
By contrast, Bush
"wholeheartedly" endorsed a bill sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS)
and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) would ban all cloning of human embryos. A
similar bill passed in the House by more than 100 votes. About 20
Senators are undecided.
"Science has set before us
decisions of immense consequence," said the President. "We can pursue
medical research with a clear sense of moral purpose or we can travel
without an ethical compass into a world we could live to regret."
In Genesis we read,: "Then God
said, `Let us make man in our image.'"
The created one should not play
Copyright 2002 Michael J. McManus.
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