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Debating when life begins

State funding of stem cell research may be one of the most emotional issues the Maryland General Assembly will consider this year, and it did not take long today for some raw nerves to be exposed during a hearing today.

Lawmakers are considering legislation that would earmark $25 million a year for embryonic stem cell research, which scientists say holds promise for dozens of debiliitating diseases. It iis controversial, however, because it involves the destruction of a human embryo.

At today's hearing, John Gearhart of John Hopkins University, one of he world's leading stem cell researchers, sought to tackle head-on criticism that the research is unethical. "There is no scientific answer to when life begins," he told a panel of lawmakers.

Del. Patrick L. McDonough (R-Baltimore County) was quick to offer an alternate view. "I don't think science is God and should determine when life begins," he said.

That came in hour one of a hearing that would stretch for three more hours.

By John Wagner  |  January 25, 2006; 5:43 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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