An ‘everybody wins’ law

Staff editorial published by The Augusta Chronicle
March 18, 2007

Bill supports promising, harmless stem cell research from birth tissue, fluid

When you think of stem cell research, what do you think about?

Embryos? Politics? Controversy?

You bet.

A bill before the General Assembly just might change the way you think about it, though.

The “Saving the Cure Act” would create the “Georgia Newborn Umbilical Cord Blood Bank,” a network of public and private blood banks for the collection and storage of post-natal tissue and fluid that normally is simply discarded after birth – but which backers of the bill say is rich in stem cells – cells that already are used to treat anemia, leukemia, and lymphoma. They’re also being used in research for multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and spinal cord injury, the bill’s backers say.

In fact, the bill, introduced by state Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, is nicknamed “Keone’s Law” in honor of Keone Penn, who the bill backers say was cured of sickle cell anemia through umbilical cord stem cell treatment.

That’s beautiful enough. Even better, though, is that such research presents absolutely no risk of harming another human being – i.e., destroying a human embryo.

The bill, S.B. 148, would set up the cord blood bank network, as well as a commission by June 2008 to coordinate research and samples. The bill also would inspire, and in June 2009 mandate, health care professionals to educate new parents about the ease and value of birth tissue and fluid donation.

Speaking purely for himself, Dr. David Munn, a pediatric oncology professor at the Medical College of Georgia, told Sen. Shafer in a March 5 letter that “I consider the goal of facilitating and encouraging nondestructive stem cell research to be a laudable one. Many of the most scientifically exciting possibilities for human therapy, and the ones that are the most practically attainable and closest to human clinical trials, are based on non-embryonic stem cells. In my opinion, it would be unfortunate to allow the dubious and controversial ethics of embryonic stem cells to divert attention from the many ethically acceptable, more promising and much less speculative non-embryonic strategies.”

We agree, and we believe Georgia lawmakers would be foolish to pass up this chance to advance science, and medical cures, with no pain or cost to donors – and no harm to human life.