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Senate Committee Meeting Gets Underway into Issue of Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research

Aired September 5, 2001 - 09:38   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.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get you right to Capitol Hill right now, because the Senate Committee meeting has just gotten underway into the issue of federal funding for stem cell research. Ted Kennedy is a ranking Democrat of that committee.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: ... horrible disease. The doctor can also say that these diseases are now curable.

So there is probably no more important work before this Congress than to support stem cell research to provide life and hope to millions of Americans who would otherwise face lives of struggle, disability and even death. President Bush has opened the door to government funding for this important area of health research. And we look forward to hearing from Secretary Thompson about his plans and those in the administration moving forward on stem cell research.

The question before the Congress is whether the door is open wide enough, whether the stem cell lines identified by the administration are adequate and available for the research that is needed now to save lives? Today our committee will hear from an outstanding group of leaders on the national policy, and science and ethics and the law.

Their testimony will be a useful guide to the committee and to Congress as we consider action in this important area. We must make certain that stem cell research can fulfill its fast potential to improve the health and relieve the suffering of millions of Americans.

President Bush has recognized the value of this research with the recent decision, allowing the federal funds for the work. Many in the scientific community are concerned that the president's decision established restrictive condition on this critical research and will delay development of cures for dread diseases for many years at the cost of countless lives and immeasurable suffering.

Failure to cease this unprecedented medical opportunity will be a tragic portrayal of hopes and dreams of millions of patients who expect us to do all we can to develop these new cures. The president said that his policy will limit -- which limits federally funded research to cells and existence before August 9th, will make more than 60 cell lines available to researchers, and that these cells will be adequate to conduct all needed research.

But this conclusion is hardly clear. Scientist question whether many of these stem cell lines will actually be useful and available. The president's limitation gives monopoly however to only 10 organizations that will now control the supply of stem cells. Most of the existing testimony cell lines would not be federal guidelines for safety. If they were to be used in actual clinical work with human patients, these lines may deteriorate, become unusable in just a few years. New and more effective techniques of deriving stem cells may be developed could not with used in federally funded research under the president's guidelines.

The questions about the president's policy are serious questions and they deserve serious answers because of the life and health of millions of patients and their families are at stake. It would be unacceptable to offer these patients and families the promise of effective stem cell research, but deny them the reality of it.

Our committee today begins (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of stem cell research as it evaluated the need for legislation to assure vigorous, ethical stem cell research. I hope our hearing will contribute to the understanding of these important scientific and ethical issues, and I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses and the comments of our colleagues -- Senator Gregg.

SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Thank you, Senator Kennedy. And thank you for holding this important hearing, which goes to a subject which has become -- which has captured the nation's attention, because the potential for it is so immense. The potential is to address diseases which have plagued many citizens of our nations and the world for years, for generations, and which now have a potential source of relief. Clearly stem cell research has...

MCEDWARDS: All right, you have been listening to the Senate committee hearing on the issue of federal funding for stem cell research that has just gotten under way on Capitol Hill. It scheduled to go from 9:30 until 12:30 Eastern Time. You heard Senator Ted Kennedy laying out most of arguments about this controversial issue. Some scientist worried that the 64 stem cell lines that the federal funding will be limited to won't be enough. People on the other side of the issue are worried this opens the door a little bit too much. We will keep covering this committee hearing for you. Lots of other witnesses still to testify.

We will take a short break right here now. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

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