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Senator Bill Frist Speaks Out for Stem Cell Research

Aired July 18, 2001 - 12:19   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to break into this commercial break and take you to Washington right now, because Republican Senator Bill Frist is on the floor of the Senate -- is in the well of the Senate, if you will -- speaking out now about his support for stem cell research.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. BILL FRIST (R), TENNESSEE: ... in a period much earlier along the timeline at a time four to five days after a sperm and an egg come together.

I am convinced, based on this personal experience, based on the professional experience, that we can address this use of living tissue -- living tissue that otherwise would not be used. And it's critically important that we understand that: that this tissue otherwise would not be used -- similar to the fact, when I do a heart transplant, that heart otherwise would not be used for any useful function.

That individual would likely be buried six days later or 10 days later. To use that tissue that has no other use -- and that's where this informed consent process is important when we're talking about stem cell research -- to benefit other people: the people with diabetes and Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's and spinal cord injuries who may potentially benefit from this new research.

It wasn't easy in transplantation 30 years ago. But we did it. And we did it through organizations like the United Network for Organ Sharing, a national registry; strong government oversight; full transparency; full public accountability; discourse among not just the scientists -- because they are going to push for it hard -- but discourse on the public square, where you get the input of the theologians and the ethicists and the philosophers and the medical doctors and the clinicians and the parents and the doctors -- as well as the scientists themselves.

The consent process -- I'll come back to it just very briefly -- but the consent processes must be comprehensive. That's the only way we can avoid the potential abuse, the potential for overcommercialization of this process. We have to make sure the consent process protects against coercion.

Well, we can look back to that transplant arena because we addressed it 30 years ago -- again, much later in the continuum of life when we're doing heart transplants and lung transplants -- but we must come back and superimpose a comprehensive consent process much earlier in time.

Third issue: research -- I've mentioned this is -- new research is exciting. It gives hope to millions and millions of people. But let's not overpromise. This research is new. It's evolving. It's untried. It's untested. And therefore, we can't predict exactly what is going to come from this research. So let's not oversell the research in order to build public support for whatever position we take. We should not let the potential of this research drive the moral considerations themselves.

And thus we must set up a very important, strong, transparent, ethical...

HARRIS: All right. We're going to break away from Senator Frist's comments on the well of the Senate.

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