More MS news articles for Feb 2002

Patient groups fight US cloning ban

Feb 06, 2002
By Julie Rovner
Reuters Health

A coalition of groups representing patients and researchers urged the US Senate to reject a House-passed bill to ban all forms of human cloning, and instead endorsed a competing measure that would ban "reproductive cloning" but let cloning to produce stem cells for research proceed.

"An across-the-board ban on human cloning will dash the hopes of many Americans living lives that, like mine, are so radically, functionally and emotionally different than what they once were," Kris Gulden told a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Gulden, a former police officer and triathlete who was paralyzed in 1998 after being struck by a car, testified on behalf of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, whose members include leading universities as well as groups representing patients with diseases such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's and spinal cord injury.

While the coalition, in a statement, said it supports a ban on cloning intended to produce the live birth of a baby, it supports so-called "therapeutic cloning" in which embryos are created in order to derive embryonic stem cells. Such cloning "may prove to be a vital tool in allowing scientists to fully develop the promise of stem cell research," Gulden told the committee. In both cases, embryos are produced using a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer.

"The research could allow a patient's own genetic material to be used to develop stem cell therapies specifically tailored to that individual's medical conditions, thus not triggering an immune rejection response," she said.

Backers of the House bill, however, said that patient groups are being given false hopes by research whose promise is largely yet to materialize. "Right now it is a purely theoretical construct," said Rep. David Weldon (R-FL), the sponsor of the House measure.

Weldon said only by banning all forms of cloning can a ban on reproductive cloning be assured. "You cannot have all of this research proceeding and prevent human cloning," he said. "It would only be a matter of time before a rogue physician, in defiance of the law, implants one of these embryos into a woman."

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), sponsor of one of the bills that would ban reproductive cloning but allow research cloning to proceed, sharply disagreed with that assertion. "We are all concerned about the sale of human organs or the transplant of organs from executed prisoners," she said. "But few people argue that the solution to these potential problems is to ban organ transplantation."

The Senate is expected to debate the competing cloning ban bills in late March.

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited