Tuesday, May 24, 2005

House Passes Stem Cell Research Bills

Sorry about a long post today. Both CNN and Fox covered news on two stem cell bills that were passed by the House. The controversial bill, opposed by President Bush, involves federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. A second bill about using stem cells from adults and umbilical cord blood passed with only one opposing vote. Both articles gave pros and cons of the issues. However, there are two major differences in coverage: (1) information from the embryonic cell bill, and (2) information on stem cells not from embryos but rather from adults and umbilical cord blood. CNN has much more information on the former and Fox much more on the latter. A reader of just CNN or just Fox News will not have the full information.

Embryonic Cells. Fox has little information about some of the arguments in favor of the controversial bill. CNN, on the other hand has this information:

But supporters point out that there are embryos in fertility clinics that would never be used to create babies, but could be used for research purposes.

Rep. Mike Castle, who introduced the bill, said it "draws a strict ethical line by only allowing federally funded research on stem cell lines that were derived ethically from donated embryos determined to be in excess."

"Under no circumstances," the Delaware Republican said in a written statement last week, "does this legislation allow for the creation of embryos for research, nor does it fund the destruction of embryos."

Under the bill, couples who have undergone fertility treatments and have embryos they won't use can then make the choice of putting them up for adoption, giving them directly to another couple, storing them, discarding them or donating them to science, co-sponsor Rep. Diana DeGette said during debate Tuesday.

"The only federal funds used under the Castle-DeGette bill are federal funds to then develop those embryonic stem cell lines" donated to science, the Colorado Democrat said. "We're allowing more of those lines." …

But supporters of the bill say only about 10 percent of excess embryos are adopted; the rest are discarded.

In a news conference Monday, Castle said that under the bill, "if the donors of that particular embryo, the creators of the embryo, the doctor, the in vitro fertilization clinic all sign off on the fact that this embryo is going to be disposed of and then sign off on the fact that it can be used for research, and no money exchanges hands ... then it could be used for research."

Non-embryonic Cells (from adults and umbilical cord blood). The bill on non-embryonic stem cell research is less controversial and is supported by Bush because it does not involve embryos. CNN says very little about non-embryo stem cell research. The information on that is limited to this excerpt: “… opponents of the embryonic stem cell legislation pointed out repeatedly that while adult stem cells have been proven to cure and treat patients, embryonic stem cells have not.” Fox, on the other hand, devotes much more of its article to non-embryo stem cells. Here are the excerpts:

"There are alternatives to destroying embryos" like using umbilical cord blood for research, Claude Allen, a White House advisor on domestic policy, told FOX News on Tuesday. "So we do not need to destroy human life in order to protect human life."

The Bush administration on Tuesday released a statement in support of the Smith-Davis bill, saying umbilical cord-blood stem cells, collected from the placenta and umbilical cord after birth without doing harm to mother or child, have been used in the treatment of thousands of patients suffering from more than 60 different diseases, including leukemia, Fanconi anemia, sickle cell disease and thalassemia. Researchers also believe cord-blood stem cells may be useful in the exploration of stem cell therapies for regenerative medicine, reads the statement from the Office of Management and Budget. …

"As you consider the funding options for stem cell research, please remember me," Keone Penn, 18, said at a Capitol Hill news conference. He said he had been stricken with childhood sickle cell anemia and cured after a transplant from umbilical cord blood.

Penn, of Atlanta, said sickle cell anemia caused a stroke when he was 5 years old. Treatment for the disease was so painful that he said he contemplated suicide four years later. Doctors predicted he would not live to adulthood, but because of the transplant, he turns 19 in two weeks.

"If it wasn't for cord blood, I'd probably be dead by now," he said.

Blood saved from newborns' umbilical cords is rich in a type of stem cells that produce blood, the same kind that make up bone-marrow transplants. The Institute of Medicine recently estimated that cord blood could help treat about 11,700 Americans a year with leukemia and other devastating diseases, yet most is routinely discarded.

Links to the articles:


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