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Stem cell meltdown?

Maryland senators offered a preview this morning of fireworks to come when the chamber starts floor debate next week on a bill authorizing state funding of stem cell research.

Senate Minority Whip Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) complained in open session that substantive changes had been made to the bill between the time it passed out of committee and was distributed yesterday on the Senate floor.

"I'm aghast at this," Harris, who opposes the legislation, later told reporters. "They are changing the bill. I don't know what's going on. The process is in a complete meltdown."

Harris said he suspects changes are being made to peel off supporters of a promised filibuster of the legislation, which he is helping lead.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) told reporters that Harris had overreacted and that only minor changes had been made to the bill, which authorizes state spending on both embryonic and adult stem cell research. Opponents say embryonic work is unethical, because it involves the destruction of a human embryo.

"Senator Harris feels very strongly about this issue," Miller said. "He's the Don Dwyer of the Maryland Senate."
Miller was referring to an Anne Arundel County Republican delegate who is championing a constitutional ban on gay marriage and other socially conservative causes.

"Moderates are going to have prevail," Miller said. "If we can isolate the fringe elements, we can make progress on the bill."

By John Wagner  |  March 2, 2006; 12:13 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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Wow, legislators changing a bill so it becomes less filibusterable (is that a word), what a news flash! Stop whining and play the game the way its played.

Posted by: RCDennis | March 2, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"Sen. Andrew P. Harris (D-Baltimore County) complained in open session..."
Andrew Harris is a Republican from Baltimore and Harford Counties... not a Democrat. Don Dwyer is likewise a Republican and very conservative at that. The comparison should have tipped you off that the "D" was a mistake.

Posted by: Greg | March 2, 2006 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Seriously, follow your own link. They're both Republicans.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 2, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Sorry. Fixed

Posted by: Phyllis Jordan | March 2, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Proponents, like myself, of stem cell research got a real boost this past Sunday by a story that ran on 60 Minutes.

Opponents of this research should consider what Dr. Hans Keirstead of the University of California has done: Injecting stem cells into the spinal column of paralyzed rats, within weeks the rodents were walking!

This isn't some pie in the sky sci-fi junk that people can roll their eyes at. This isn't flying cars of the future; this is now.

Don't take my word for it, read the story and watch the video of this amazing experiment

Posted by: corbett | March 2, 2006 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I read the transcript of the interview and watched the clip. The company Dr. Keirstead is funded by is likened to Microsoft. This is not about money? There is a great divide among citizens on when life begins, and when it ends. Using taxes to further actions which many people find morally unacceptable should stop. I couldn't help but think of the Korean researcher who filed bogus research and bogus claims a couple months ago. The proponents of ESR ignore the advances made and current treatments in using adult stem cells. One of Dr. Keirstead's questionable motivations: "So, let's use it (life)instead of discarding it." What stops our "USE" of life in all its forms (e.g. drug or procedural testing on people who would die anyway, or aren't living a certain so-called quality of life, getting pregnant or terminating pregnancy to produce cells that might help a loved one...)? Questions and problems, some that experts have identified, some yet to be seen, put humankind at risk if they go ignored.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 2, 2006 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Anon, respectfully the slippery slope argument you are using is a crock. I don't see how using embryos that are going to be discarded for research that could save the lives of millions then entails the eventual experimentation on the terminally ill. Yes, people in this country do have a large difference of opinion of when life begins and when it ends. What is backwards is that the same people who cherish life before it's even out of the womb don't seem to give two licks to those who are living and need help. All this time and resources are spent on preventing abortions and research while thousands go hungry and sick.

Posted by: Mr. K | March 2, 2006 5:58 PM | Report abuse

You are right. It is hard to see. Embryos should never be created to be discarded. It's all part of our American self-centered approach to the fallacy of "having it all." But sorry on your generalization of those who cherish life.

Met with a woman of a family burned out of their home on Feb. 15; to give her money for food and rent deposit.

Mr. K., too many generalizations ("same people"), no ethics.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 2, 2006 6:23 PM | Report abuse

RCDennis, Harris' complaint is that the committee voted out the bill in one form, and when it appeared on the Senate floor, it differed from what the committee voted on. Regardless of the merits of the issue, the process is in meltdown. Is that really how the game is supposed to be played? Might makes right?

Unfortunately for those of us raised on Schoolhouse Rock, however, Senator Harris looks like a naive boob. This happens far too often in Annapolis, and most likely other statehouses (and other legislative bodies) around the country.

Posted by: johnson | March 2, 2006 10:56 PM | Report abuse

What I find striking is how those who claim the use of excess embryos for this use – that is, to save and possibly improve the lives of living, breathing people - is better than just tossing them in an incinerator, as tens of thousands are every year.

Are they to be stored until they are useless from freezer burn?

And where’s the moral outrage at the very fertility treatments that lead to this glut of hundreds of thousands of embryos that are sitting in laboratories all over this nation? It’s just jaw-dropping to me that this isn’t an issue that those on the right are not up in arms about. In the development of these grand fertility treatments, wasn’t the will of the almighty subverted by allowing those who could not, on their own, procreate? And what of the technologies, as they exist today – do you think they just appeared one day, that there was no trial and error that resulted in the destruction of embryos before these techniques were perfected?

Here’s how it should work. When a couple – or a woman on her own – goes to a clinic for fertility treatments that will result in excess embryos that will not be used, they should be given the option of how those excess embryos should be dealt with, with three options: 1) Donate them to science that will one day (within the next decade, I believe) improve and save human lives; 2) Have them destroyed as numerous ones are today, with no benefit; or, 3) Pay an annual storage fee for them to be kept viable at clinics or centers.

Posted by: corbett | March 3, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Anon, I'm glad to hear of your generosity and kind outreach to someone in need of assistance. I don't think I am generalizing at all. My comment was not directed at those who are pro-life, but those who spend so much time and resources on this one issue (which seems to be many people and organizations across the nation) to the detriment of other pressing matters. If people who are so hell bent on banning abortions and stem cell research used those energies and resources toward something that may impact the living like healthcare reform (including the pharmecutical industry), improving social programs, bettering education, and reducing poverty there could be real positive change that everyone can agree on. With less poverty comes less abortion (see "Freakonomics" by Steven D. Levitt) and if we had a pharmecutical industry that cared more about people than profits maybe there would be viable alternatives to stem cell research. My point is, I believe certain people are so wrapped up in protecting the unborn that they neglect the living.

Posted by: Mr. K | March 3, 2006 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Embryonic stem cell research is worth pursuing, absolutely. But the state of MD will be making a mistake if it commits money to develop a bureaucracy to fund stem cell research. Don't tell me that the MD Technology Corp is qualified to review these grants. There is, however, a body located in MD that is qualified. Its called the NIH. The state should spend its resources demanding that the federal government do its job and started funding ESC research. If this goes forward in MD, I predict it will hit the skids as it has in California. And really be little more than a Johns Hopkins full employment act.

Posted by: R.S. | March 3, 2006 12:27 PM | Report abuse

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