All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for December 2002

N.J. Senate OKs stem-cell research

December 17, 2002
By Pete McAleer
Statehouse Bureau

Fred Ferrari knows no law ever can be enacted to allow him to get out of his wheelchair and walk again.

But Ferarri, 67, of Flemington, Hunterdon County, said a bill approved by the state Senate on Monday to allow and promote stem-cell research in New Jersey provides hope for the future. That's why he went to Trenton, so he could watch from the floor of the Senate as the bill passed 25-0.

"It seems there should be no question about it," Ferarri said, comparing stem-cell research to the space program launched by President Kennedy in the 1960s. "This is not for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren."

The bill now heads to the Democratic-controlled Assembly. If it passes there, Gov. James E. McGreevey is expected to quickly sign it into law.

That would make New Jersey the second state to pass legislation that counters the federal government's restrictions on stem-cell research.

President Bush prohibited the federal funding of stem-cell research earlier this year and banned all forms of stem-cell cloning. New Jersey's bill allows for therapeutic cloning - essentially the cloning of one's own DNA for medical purposes - but it bans the use of cells for reproductive cloning.

Anti-abortion groups and the Catholic Church strongly oppose the measure. They instead encourage the use of adult stem cells - umbilical cord blood - for medical research.

Marie Tasy, director of public and legislative affairs for New Jersey Right to Life, said she was "shocked and disgusted" by the Senate's vote. She said the bill encourages human beings to be harvested and then killed for spare parts.

"In their quest for national fame and notoriety, New Jersey lawmakers have acted irresponsibly to create a foul climate where ghoulish human experimentation and organ harvesting will be performed and human embryo and fetal farms will flourish throughout our state," Tasy said.

Stem cells form very early in an embryo's growth and eventually develop into different types of cells to form various organs and other parts of the body.

State Sen. Richard J. Codey, co-sponsor of the bill, said the legislation actually makes human cloning - and the sale and purchase of embryos - illegal in the state.

Although the bill does not provide for government funding, it allows scientists to work with embryonic stem cells obtained from fertility treatments. It also requires health-care professionals in New Jersey to inform patients at fertility clinics about the option to donate embryos for scientific research.

Scientists use the embryos to study cures for spinal cord injuries, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and other diseases.

"Our state has the rare opportunity to serve as a beacon of hope for those suffering from a variety of life-threatening illnesses and debilitating conditions," said Codey, D-Essex. "It is our responsibility as legislators to ensure that this hope is not stifled."

State Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, led the opposition against the bill. One of 15 senators to abstain from voting, Cardinale said the research is an unethical attempt to change federal law.

"You can't kill one person in order to help somebody else get well," Cardinale said.

Supporters of the research say thousands of unwanted embryos are simply discarded each year as medical waste. Bill co-sponsor state Sen. Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex, said the legislation provides needed assurance for scientists who might otherwise leave the state.

"We must either support this emerging field now or forever regret that we did not work to advance this science, which could save millions of lives," Buono said.

© 2002,