Stem Cells: Science v. Spending

| Wed Jul. 19, 2006 2:02 PM PDT

Quick, count the people in your life facing a critical or degenerative illness, or those you've lost to the same. Alzheimer's, Diabetes, spinal cord injury, Leukemia and other aggressive cancers, heart disease...

Got a number?

Now tally up the amount that those diseases cost society. Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, for example, are estimated to cost $248 billion world wide.

$248 billion. That's almost four times what the Bush administration allocated for the Department of Education this fiscal year. It's about 10 times what is spent on the Department of Agriculture.

So when the true cost of impeding scientific inquiry that may produce cures for these devastating illnesses is tallied up, it's not just your friends and family, and all the other Americans for whom embryonic stem cell research holds out the best hope for a cure. It's all the money that we currently spend to treat people with these illnesses. Money that could be put to other uses.

Against the bill (H.R. 810) that opens the way to humane treatment for the sick and disabled, is the belief of those, like Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, that the destruction of embryos, frozen within a few days of fertilization when they're just a handful of cells, is akin to to murdering a live infant.

Sen. Brownback is entitled to his beliefs. And his encouragement of "embryo adoption" is fine, too. But currently there are an estimated 500, 000 frozen embryos. It's not clear that there are that many potential parents out there willing to adopt in this manner. But even if there were, we know for a fact that there are parents who don't like the notion of offering up their embryo for adoption but who would embrace donating their unused embryos for stem cell research.

Nobody's going to force parents who are against stem cell research to participate in it. But for those who would, is Congress going to stand in their way, and stand against the sick and the dying?

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