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US Lawmakers Debate Therapeutic Cloning - 2002-03-13


Americans living with diseases might be faced with a grim decision in the future: either seek therapeutic cloning treatment abroad and face prosecution when returning to the United States, or live without the treatment. Some are saying that is what will happen if the Senate passes proposed cloning ban legislation. Academy-Award Winner Kevin Kline testified before a Senate sub-committee about the need to allow therapeutic cloning research in the United States.

Therapeutic cloning uses human embryos to grow healthy, genetically identical cells for a patient. Scientists believe they could use the healthy cells to cure the patient's ailment.

Mr. Kline says therapeutic cloning could be a great step to easing human suffering. "I implore you, do not deny [the rest of] us our access to the best medical technology available," he said. "If the next miracle comes from Canada or England, Ireland, Scotland or Sweden, I want to be allowed to take my child there and not face imprisonment when we return."

Mr. Kline and others in favor of cloning research oppose the bill, drafted by Senator Sam Brownback, that includes criminal and civil penalties for anyone who is found "to import the product of human cloning for any purpose."

A similar bill easily passed in the House. President Bush supports both bills.

Opponents of the legislation worry this is their last chance to block the bill from becoming law. They argue the law would limit research too much and would deter people from pursuing careers in science.

But for Congressman Bart Stupak, the claims are "ridiculous." "Our bill does nothing of the sort," he said. "It allows animal cloning, it allows tissue cloning, it allows current stem-cell research done on existing, normal embryos. It allows DNA cloning. How is this stifling medical or scientific research?"

Many scientists argue research needs to be done on human embryos in order to come up with the best treatment for each ailment. They say they might be able to use therapeutic cloning to cure Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other diseases.

Opponents of therapeutic cloning believe creating human embryos for research and then discarding them later is killing human life. Religious opponents also believe it is an attempt by scientists to "play God."

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