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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Stem Cell Research Topic of Community Conversation

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A Connecticut Health Center chair said tonight she believes the country’s debate on stem cell research needs to move beyond the status of an embryo.

Audrey R. Chapman is the first holder of the Healey Endowed chair in Medical Humanities, Law and Ethics at the University of Connecticut Health Center, and she led a community conversation at the Westport Public Library tonight on the issues surrounding stem cell research.

She said the controversy over embryotic stem cell research is because embryos are needed.

Many believe life begins at conception, she said, and feel the embryos should not be destroyed.

The embryotic stem cells have to come from frozen embryos that people don’t want any more after fertility treatments, she said, and there are approximately 400,000 of them in banks across the country.

Others believe scientists are going against nature, she said, and it would dehumanize people.

“We haven’t been able to agree on the issues,” she said.

By focusing on the status of the embryo, she said, people are not discussing procedures if people move forward with research.

She explained there is research into two types of stem cells: adult and embryotic. The research into embryotic stem cells, however, is more controversial.

Research into both areas can help develop new therapies for a variety of diseases including diabetes, some cancers and muscular degenerate diseases, she said.

While embryotic stem cell research is legal, she said, there are few federal funds for it.

If an institution takes federal funding, she said, scientists need to set up separate laboratories that are dedicated to the stem cell research.

Questions need to be answered on how people give consent on donating a frozen embryo to stem cell research, she said.

Additionally, if the research is successful in creating new therapies, a process needs to be determined to make sure everyone has it available to them, Chapman said.

Extending human life by creating new treatments, she said, has social implications if not everyone has access.

Additionally, without federal funding, she said, there is no federal regulations on the matter.

“Every institution is having these conversations, but they’re doing it on their own,” she said.

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Posted 09/28/06 at 01:00 AM  Permalink



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