Committee examines cloning, stem-cell ethics

Tuesday, February 1, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:58 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — The issues of cloning and stem-cell research found themselves under the microscope at a state Senate hearing Monday night.

Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Jackson County, presented a bill to the Senate Judiciary Committee to outlaw human cloning in Missouri by 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,” Bartle said. “We need to use our good old Missouri common sense.”

Committee members also heard scientific testimony on embryonic stem-cell research, which scientists in Missouri and several other states are exploring as a way to develop treatments for 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, 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 contentious,” said Prentice.

Steve Teitelbaum, a Washington University 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,” said Smith. “Human cloning should be outlawed. This is giving people a false hope.”

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

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