Monday, January 23, 2006

Yes, we really did win a victory

Just got an email from fellow Catholic Scholar of Delaware Kate Rogers, who said she didn't quite believe my assessment of the gutted SB80 because it sounded too good to be true. So she emailed our own diocesan bioethics expert, Fr. John Grimm, and his assessment of the amended bill was like my own. It really was a significant victory. Kate apologized for doubting me. (It's okay, Kate, I sometimes think half my life is spent being a Cassandra for both weal and woe).

One thing I have learned in my foray into politics is that sometimes what emerges from a battle over legislation makes no sense whatsoever. The sensible thing to do would have been to either renumber the bill, after it was amended -- which is what Rep. Joe Miro wanted to do -- or to just drop it when it was apparent that it was not going to fly. The best guess I can make is that one or more of its sponsors wanted to claim some kind of victory, after putting so much effort into it.

The News Journal is still printing letters from folks who are outraged that the excess embryos (aka "medical waste" by pro-ESC supporters) cannot be donated to science. In point of fact, they can. The status quo remains. Embryos may be adopted, implanted and brought to birth; embryos may be donated to science.

What happened was that the state did NOT set up a regulatory mechanism for donating them to science, as the original SB80 wanted to do. The state did NOT set up a regulatory mechanism for research cloning. Anyone wanting to do either of those things, or wanting to adopt and implant an excess embryo, must do so under existing laws. While existing laws are probably good enough for the continuation of embryo adoption -- we had a local "snowflake" baby and her mom at the SB80 hearings -- they are not good enough for biotech companies to start any big push for research cloning or ESC research using frozen embryos.

Meanwhile, Dr. David Weir is telling folks that Delaware gave up a chance to become a national leader. According to the News Journal:
Although no companies or hospitals are conducting embryonic stem cell research in Delaware today, executives in the state's biotechnology industry said companies considering using stem cells as a source for possible new medical treatments won't locate in Delaware if the bill becomes law.

The House version of the bill will have "a chilling effect on how people perceive the environment in Delaware for this kind of research," said David Weir, director of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. "Delaware has sent out a message that this kind of research won't happen here."


The sad thing is that companies considering using umbilical cord blood stem cells and other adult stem cells as a source for medical treatments would be very, very welcome in Delaware by myself and other opponents of SB80. We have contacts now in South Korea with Dr. Hoon Han's group doing clinical trials in some exciting regenerative medicine with umbilical cord blood stem cells, including treatment of spinal cord injuries. I hope to see the Delaware medical community pursue an investigation of the work being done overseas.

But yes... it was a victory. The gospel promises of Christ once again proved to be trustworthy.

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