Tue Apr 9, 5:27 PM ET
By Julie Rovner
WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), the former heart-lung
transplant surgeon who is the Senate's only physician, announced on Tuesday
that he will support legislation expected on the Senate floor in the coming
weeks to ban all forms of human cloning. That includes both cloning intended
to produce the live birth of a baby as well as to create embryos to be
destroyed in order to derive stem cells for research.
"After considering the medical progress that is being made and will be made through stem cell research and after considering the overwhelming ethical concerns about human embryo cloning experimentation, I conclude that a comprehensive ban on all human cloning is the right policy at this time, and I intend to support legislation consistent with this policy," Frist said on the Senate floor.
Frist has been seen as a pivotal figure in the upcoming cloning debate, and not only because he is a physician and a leader on science and medical issues. Frist also split with President Bush (news - web sites) and many Republicans last year when he endorsed broader federal funding of embryonic stem cell research than the President ultimately did.
But Frist said Tuesday that his support for embryonic stem cell research does not extend to creating embryos. "Regardless of our religious background...I believe most of us are extremely uncomfortable with the idea of creating cloned human embryos, doing an experiment on them, and then destroying that human embryo," he said.
Frist said he plans to go to the White House Wednesday, where President Bush is expected to renew his call for the cloning ban at a Rose Garden event.
But Frist also told reporters at a news conference later that he does
have one problem with the bill to ban cloning that passed the House last
summer and that is expected on the Senate floor--its ban on the importation
of technologies developed in other countries using human cloning techniques.
"If there is a cure for a patient that has multiple sclerosis, and if it's
available to the world, as a physician my ethical obligation is to do what's
best for that patient," he said.
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