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Frist announces support for embryonic stem cell research

WASHINGTON (BP)–U.S. Sen. Bill Frist, a pro-life Republican ally of President Bush, endorsed federal funding for embryonic stem cell research July 18.

Frist, from Nashville, Tenn., who is also a heart and lung transplant surgeon, said he believes both embryonic and adult stem-cell research should be federally funded. “I am pro-life,” Frist said in his statement. But, he said, “As a physician, my sole purpose has been to preserve and improve the quality of life.”

Frist called embryonic stem-cell research “a promising and important line of inquiry” — more versatile and holding greater potential than research that is limited to adult stem cells only.

“The prudent course for us as policymakers is to provide for the pursuit of both lines of research [embryonic and adult stem cells] — allowing researchers in each field to build on the progress of the other.” Frist called for strengthening the federal guidelines governing such research so they include “appropriate” safeguards, public accountability and efforts to “ensure the highest level of respect for the moral significance of the human embryo.”

Frist’s statement made no reference to a study that used fetal stem cells in Parkinson’s disease patients and failed to demonstrate a benefit but recorded crippling side effects. The research results, reported in The New England Journal of Medicine in April, showed the cells grew too much in about 15 percent of patients, causing them to jerk uncontrollably.

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